Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: NoSo at The Pie Shop

NoSo is the artist name adopted by the young trans and non-binary singer-songwriter and guitarist Baek Hwong.

NoSo at The Pie Shop - -- Photo: Bella Rose Porter
NoSo at The Pie Shop – — Photo: Bella Rose Porter

NoSo, the artist name adopted by the young trans and non-binary singer-songwriter and guitarist Baek Hwong, is short for North/South, a subtle nod to the “inane origin question” Korean Americans inevitably face from time to time — “Which Korea are you from?”

The influence of that ethnic heritage is even subtler on NoSo’s music, a dreamy, sweet, and breezily cinematic indie-rock soundscape carrying lyrics that quietly and artfully share personal memories and intimate confessions, touching on feelings of otherness and alienation, although mostly from the perspective of gender identity and queer longing.

“Music has always been a tool for me to express feelings I feared would be unacceptable, in a form that’s more poetic and palatable for people,” the artist told NPR Music in an interview last summer focused on their remarkable debut album, Stay Proud of Me.

NoSo has described the work as a labor of love written to their younger self and also as a sentimental snapshot of the major changes the 25-year-old artist went through over the last four to five years — with songs conveying their feelings about gender-affirming top surgery, both pre- (“Sorry I Laughed”) and post- (“Parasites”).

Other songs, including “David” and “I’m Embarrassed I Still Think Of You,” reflect on the queer envy and lust they experienced growing up in a largely white Chicago suburb.

NoSo wrote and recorded much of the album during quarantine, including songs inspired by fantasy and an active imagination. That includes the album’s peak and standout single “Honey Understand,” a brooding stomp with a cathartic chorus and playful lyrics from a protagonist seemingly lost in a spontaneous reverie.

“Honey, understand, it’s me against the crowds,” NoSo sings. “Honey, understand, I’m thinking out loud. Honey, understand, you won’t know me, but I’m proud.”

Citing NoSo as “one to watch,” a critic in the U.K.’s Guardian called Stay Proud of Me a collection of songs that “toy with the nuances of identity through fingerpicked melodies and soft falsetto, bringing to mind the work of contemporaries such as Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.”

NoSo performs Sunday, Nov. 13. Doors at 7:30 p.m. The Pie Shop is at 1339 H St. NE. Tickets are $15. Visit www.pieshopdc.com or call 202-398-7437.

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