We’re not big on end-of-the-year lists here at SBS. We don’t do top ten lists, or declare an album of the year.
This isn’t a ranking, or a definitive list. It’s just what the title says – 5 albums, released in 2015, that discuss queer themes, whether they be overtly political (the destruction of the cis-sexist patriarchy) or intimately personal (the near-universal desire to find someone who loves you).
I’m already braced for people to say “Why does it have to be 5 queer artists? All that matters is the music, man.” Privileged groups, who don’t have to do anything to gain acceptance, an audience, and bookings besides strumming a few chords, are threatened when the spotlight swings away from them. And marginalized groups are rightly dissatisfied with being herded into a genre ghetto, lumped in with bands that sound nothing like them based on identity.
I could have made this a stunt, stealth list – just say that it was 5 albums I liked. But I’m aware of how the internet works. I, personally, don’t read every piece of music criticism out there, regardless of headline, to find out if it’s something I’m interested in; there’s only so many hours in the day. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where people make snap decisions about what to read based on Facebook link previews, and I wanted people who need these albums, who would relate to them, to find them.
This is a celebratory list, with everything on it from twee pop to hardcore punk. Queer and trans artists made some incredible art in 2015. We think you should listen to it.
Kt Spit – Combluotion
KT Spit first came to my attention through her now-deleted Tumblr and the above collaboration with Samuel Shanahoy, the modern-day John Waters and occasional pornographer who made the video for Dreamworld Waiting. In the years after the release of Dreamworld Waiting, she worked alone on producing an album that was starkly different.
Combluotion‘s bedroom-produced vocals are emotive, earnest and sweet, circling cold crystalline synths & fairyland drum machinery, girlishly grieving disappointments and evoking dreamland futures beyond the loneliness and pain.
The unapproachable, FKA Twigs inspired single Come Thru boasts a video full of facial piercing & queer cavorting. I enjoyed the the low key chords and sonic splatter of gross, and the eerie, sweet pop melody Hope St.
Closet Burner – Choose Your Weapon
Still Broken begins with a broken, fuzzy sample, a common motif in hardcore and d-beat. Sylvia Rivera’s voice rings out, addressing the Christopher Street Liberation Day Rally. “I’ve been trying to get up here all day for your gay brothers and your gay sisters in jail that write me every motherfucking week and ask for your help, and you all don’t do a goddamn thing for them.”
When I saw Closet Burner play a benefit show for a local queercore fest in a local pizza shop, their lead singer addressed the crowd, explaining how the tendency of queer activist circles to deliberately repel people who aren’t on the same woke level as them can serve to exclude a lot of queer and trans people who aren’t on that level yet for a variety of wide socioeconomic reasons. I could feel tension in the room.
It’s a fine line between creating acceptance and allowing an “anything goes” culture that pressures marginalized groups to endure outsized aggressions. No one wants to tell deeply invested activists to run their own scene differently. They just going to quietly stop going to events where they don’t feel welcome.
When the song Queer Elite began, with Closet Burner screaming “Nose in the fucking air, you don’t seem to care…reciting all the theories, out of touch with reality,” I clapped along.
Peach Kelli Pop – Peach Kelli Pop III
You can no longer find Peach Kelli Pop’s albums on Bandcamp, after they posted a receipt showing $1.52 taken off a $10 MP3 album to Twitter. Guess you better actually buy their records, or go see them next time you have a chance and buy all the stickers, zines, and tapes you can get your hands on.
Remember when we went to Milwaukee to see these dudes play? That’s the sort of addiction their candy-coated twee love pop inspires. If there’s a Peach Kelli Pop XII, I’ll probably love it.
G.L.O.S.S. – Demo
Released just two weeks in 2015, G.L.O.S.S.’ manifesto had a whole year to threaten the cis-sexist transphobic punk rock status quo. It ruffled more than a few feathers (puke and eyeroll forever) and inspired a whole new generation to take femininity back with lined lips and spiked bats.
There’s pretty much no way you missed this incendiary firebomb, so I want to make sure you also noticed singer Sadie Switchblade’s solo album under the moniker Dyke Drama. Switchblade’s clever lyrics, which channel rage and trans triumph on the G.L.O.S.S. demo, exhibit emotional depth and frank vulnerability while discussing sobriety, depression, and unhappy sexual encounters.
PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries
PWR BTTM’s drum-and-bass driven Ugly Cherries is less of an album and more of a way of a direct beam into the brains of those gifted with being fluidly genderqueer and floridly queer: you’re not alone. Here are your people. The lyrics beckon in: “We can do our make up in the parking lot…we can drink our beer out of a sippy cup, we can go to Disney Land and fuck shit up.” Once you’re in the slumber party of longing, sex, love, you’re covered in glitter and you’ll never be alone again.
(I can’t recommend John Walker’s excellent piece on PWR BTTM for Fusion highly enough; it’s what made me realize I definitely had to check this album out).