A handful of the LGBTQ artists poised to do big things in 2018…
By Josephine Cruz
It’s no secret that Canada is blessed when it comes to musical talent, and especially so with our supply of queer artists, musicians, producers and DJs. These are a few of the acts we’ll be keeping an eye on this year, representing a diverse set of musical genres—from techno to punk rock, folk to house, pop to Punjabi, and everywhere in between.
The Instagram bio for this duo reads: “we’re funny but we’re not a joke/we’re gay but not for each other.” That short sentence tells you everything you need to know about the Sackville, N.B., natives who broke onto the scene with their 2015 viral hit “The ‘Ellen’ Page.” They are part ’90s flavoured, harmony-driven alternative rock (think Weezer and Veruca Salt); part self-deprecating, sarcastic teenage comedy; and 100 per cent unflinchingly and unapologetically queer. They just released their debut album, In Search of Lost Time, so it’s only a matter of time before Partner starts popping up everywhere.
Beverly Glenn-Copeland isn’t a new artist by any means—he first emerged out of the Toronto folk scene in the early 1970s—but he has seen renewed interest in his music thanks to a reissue of his 1986 album Keyboard Fantasies. Back then “he” was “she,” but Glenn-Copeland now lives as a male. His experimental, early-electronic music blends elements of lo-fi, ’80s synth-wave, art-rock-folk and more. Glenn-Copeland, who worked on Mr. Dressup for about 25 years writing music for children, now makes his home in New Brunswick. He still makes music and occasionally partakes in speaking engagements (recently at the Red Bull Music Academy Weekender in Montreal) where he shares the inspirational story of his life and career.
Many artists style themselves as multi-faceted, but Maylee Todd stretches the boundaries of the label by dabbling in songwriting, production, film, performance art and design. Her music is just as complex, combining both organic and electronic forms and elements of genres as wide-reaching as boogie and bossa nova, psych-funk and soul. Her live show is where Maylee shines, executing her unique brand of performance art with poise, grace, and a humour that you won’t soon forget.
Hip hop is a space that has traditionally been dominated by hyper-masculine cisgender males, but artists like Kimmortal are slowly flipping the script and representing other “brown, non-binary queerdos” like herself in this space. This Vancouver-based Filipino-Canadian rapper and singer/songwriter aims to be a voice for all POC, femmes, outcasts and diasporic bodies through her music, parties and initiatives like the SHE festival—a showcase of Indigenous, Black, mixed race and women of colour in word and music.
As the name suggests, Obskur is an indie record label and collective focusing on the more obscure, dark, underground flavours of techno coming out of the West Coast, with a specific focus on promoting female and femme-identifying talent. Founded by producer/DJs Nomad Black (Vancouver) and Kloves (Calgary) in late 2016, Obskur has since helmed a steady stream of releases, and maintained a regular radio podcast that plays host to Canadian and international guests who are hand-selected for having music from the deeper dimensions.
Originally from Tampa, Florida, and now making his home in Toronto, DJ Relentless is a bona fide icon in the ballroom scene and pioneer of “bitch tracks.” He has been DJing for the better part of 20 years in some of the most celebrated venues across America, including Sally’s II (as featured in Paris Is Burning) and New York’s famed Escuelita nightclub. His alter ego is Jade Elektra, legendary drag entertainer and performance and recording artist. And if that weren’t enough, Relentless is also a long-term HIV+ survivor and activist for ending HIV-related stigma.
Including Too Attached in this roundup was cheating the system a bit, because not only do these bicoastal siblings produce and perform pop music as a duo, they also have individual side projects as well. Shamik is a producer, beatboxer, voice actor and photographer, and runs his own record label, Sensing Waves, in Vancouver. Vivek is an author and university professor, and released her solo album Part Time Woman, which is “an album by a brown trans girl *about* being a brown trans girl.” Too Attached also recently released “Love Is Not Love,” a song that confronts the phrase “love is love” and exposes the ways that language—even slogans that try to be positive—can erase and alienate communities.
LAL has been at the forefront of the Canadian diasporic music scene since 1998. You simply can’t talk about their music without mentioning their political passions, and this Toronto-based duo is as renowned for their unwavering support for social justice movements—including issues facing Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, BIPOC and allied communities—as they are for their dreamy brand of West Indian- and African-influenced electronic music.
A Montreal native, Sikh Knowledge has called Toronto home for the last few years, and this producer/vocalist/DJ is perhaps one of the most diverse artists and humanitarians we’ve come across. He’s a speech language pathologist by day who volunteers his service at an LGBTQ2S centre in downtown Toronto; he also founded BuddyUpTO, a program aimed to pair people up with a “buddy” so they can feel safer while doing errands or travelling around the city. He plays many queer parties around the city, and his music—which sits on the experimental fringes of electronic, hip hop, dancehall and Afrobeat with a Punjabi twist—is incredible.
Wares is fairly new to the Canadian music scene, having just dropped their first full-length, self-titled album in October. Helmed by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Cassia J. Hardy, Wares effortlessly dances between folk, skate punk and spacey rock and roll, with Cassia’s powerful vocals and colourful lyrical imagery tying it all together. The solo project turned three-piece band toured extensively around Western Canada in 2017; here’s hoping that 2018 sees Wares on many a festival stage right across the country.
JOSEPHINE CRUZ is a DJ, writer and music curator based in Toronto. She has done work for Complex, HYPEBEAST and Noisey, and currently hosts a show on London’s underground online radio station Radar Radio. Her other interests include palm trees, sushi, iced coffee and her Bengal cat Ackee.