A new addition to our spreadsheet, the LGBTQ+ table offers an amazing breadth of voices working across all genres, making for some of the most forward-thinking offerings on the list. What follows is a guide through twelve of our highlights from this last calendar year.
Fire-Toolz – Drip Mental
Chicago producer Angel Marcloid’s 2017 album presents itself as a thrashing, confrontational burst of noise. However, an unexpectedly touching and melodically-inclined album unveils itself between the layers of digital overload engulfing Marcloid’s frenetic vocals. As she oscillates wildly between synthetic chaos, delicate melodies, and musique concrete—often within the same song—her unlikely fusion of vaporwave and noise serves to create a poignant meditation on the experience of queer physicality in the internet age.
Ah-Mer-Ah-Su – Rebecca
Star Amerasu’s debut EP is a beguiling and vulnerable mission statement. Through a series of stripped-back R&B instrumentals, she sings candidly about topics ranging from self-medication (“Klonopin”) to the pitfalls of White feminism (“Meg Ryan”) with gripping tenderness and precision. Rebecca’s lyrical focus often feels like being guided by the hand through a series of interiors, providing an intimate journey through the daily experience of a stand-out voice in the making.
Octo Octa – Where Are We Going?
This sophomore release from house producer Octo Octa—her first since coming out as trans—tackles identity in oblique ways. There are few explicit statements to be found in the music itself, but song titles like “Fleeting Moments of Freedom (Wooo)” and “No More Pain (Promises to a Younger Self)” imbue the album with a kind of impressionistic queerness. Its swirling synth figures and intricate percussion provide an imaginative space in which sensations of transfemininity are made to unfurl in vivid fashion, embracing ecstasy and melancholy at once.
Young M.A. – Herstory
On her debut project, New York rapper Katorah Marrero exhibits a keen understanding of hip-hop signifiers—her braggadocio, wordplay, and infectious flows could hold their own against any up-and-coming MC. On Herstory she uses these talents to a radical end, at once inhabiting and inverting the male-dominant vocabulary of hip-hop in order to express a defiantly queer brand of empowered womanhood, actively deriding the toxic masculinity of her peers. This galvanizing mixtape reappropriates the familiar to convey an emerging perspective in thrilling form.
Girls Rituals – Emergency!
Emergency’s! declarative title perfectly encapsulates the sense of detached anxiety that saturates the Toronto producer’s latest project. Backed by a set of eccentric instrumentals, she wryly sing-speaks her way through an increasingly surreal set of confessionals, in which plain, apathetic detail is often disrupted by disturbing non-sequiturs. A self-described “computer music diary” Emergency! portrays the pervasive mundanity of mental illness in a variety of witty, touching, and bizarre ways.
Chastity Brown – Silhouette of Sirens
While Chastity Brown’s discography may not present itself as outwardly political, its very existence is an act of defiance in itself. For a biracial queer woman to carve out a space for herself in the staunchly white Americana scene is a feat of radical visibility, and on Silhouette of Sirens, Brown presents her own humanity in vivid detail. Thoughtfully written and orchestrated, Silhouette is a collection of earnest, evocative ballads that transcend genre tropes, creating a space for all to lay themselves bare.
CXDR – Someone Else’s Story
In her own words, Avery Hutley’s final album as CXDR charts “the last three years of confusion, depression, self-love, […] visions, revisions” and more. Appropriately, the album covers a large swath of territory, from shimmering electronica (“Silent, Selfless”) to lo-fi balladry (“Fan Favourite”). An immensely personal work, Someone Else’s Story traverses the vast peaks and valleys of a harrowing journey towards self-discovery. While Hutley resists drawing any conclusions, the project departs with a sense that we are never alone in the process.
Quiñ – Dreamgirl EP
Los Angeles singer Quiñ takes her brand of dreamy R&B to ambitious and sophisticated heights on her sophomore release, Dreamgirl. The project’s airy production provides an appropriate backbone for a set of vignettes that tackle queer intimacy and romance in a strikingly candid and organic fashion. These scenes are rounded out by a number of stellar features, most notably Syd on standout “Sticky Situation.” In an age when queer women remain drastically underrepresented in pop music, Dreamgirl presents a refreshing antidote.
Partner – In Search of Lost Time
This Ontario-based duo’s debut is a collection of joyous power-pop anthems that tackles off-kilter subject matter that spans from daytime TV to rec-league dating woes (“Play the Field”). While an encroaching malaise often creeps into the corners of Partner’s music, they remain defiant in holding onto small, tangible joys as a means of finding stability and happiness in an increasingly dire world. In the bands own words, the album gleefully illustrates “the existential predicament of being a lesbian barista in the year 2017.”
Petal – Comfort EP
Pennsylvania songwriter Kiley Lotz quietly follows up her 2015 debut “Shame” with Comfort, a brief-but-devastating EP. In three short songs, she manages to chart the role of mental illness in a crumbling relationship with unrelenting detail. The care with which she brings the narrative to life is made all the more impactful by her plaintive and powerful vocal performances, which deliver lines like “I don’t fucking care anymore” in a hauntingly casual tone. Comfort is an affecting and necessary deconstruction of an experience that far too often goes silenced.
Fatima Al-Qadiri – Shaneera EP
Experimental producer Fatima Al-Qadiri continued her string of ambitious conceptual projects with Shaneera, a portrait of Qadiri’s “evil extreme femme alter ego.” Rich with references and signifiers embedded in Kuwaiti queer culture, the EP is a fascinating expression of campy menace and playful exuberance. Qadiri’s propulsive and sinister instrumentals provide an engaging backdrop for a rotating cast of collaborators who twist conventional markers of gender into a fluid and indefinite realm. Shaneera brings Qadiri’s dancefloor ambitions to the fore, merging headiness with the raw thrill of a vibrant underground.
Rook & Nomie – Superego Royal Jelly
Off the strength of Rook’s 2016 breakout Void Fantasy, she and indie-game sound designer Neotonomie joined forces for a remarkable collaboration. Superego is rife with vivid, inventive, at times tongue-in-cheek production, and impeccable songwriting. Through these distinctive sonic environments, they explore themes of identity, trauma, and healing in remarkably intimate and resonant ways. Superego condenses the burdens of trans survival and transforms them into a necessary hopefulness, envisioning a world of safety and strength in which the agonies of the past transcend to a radiant embrace of life.
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