2011 Year in Review: Music

 
 

Homophobia Hits Home

Uh Huh Her became the focus of attention in November, but not because of their new album as much as their Southwest Airlines debacle. Bandmates/girlfriends Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey took to Twitter to complain and then released a statement that they were kicked off a flight for kissing, which stirred up some controversy over the alleged homophobic actions of a flight attendant. Nonetheless, songs from their second LP, Nocturnes, accompanied them on the Keep A Breast tour around the U.S. throughout the fall.

Spin published a piece on homophobia in indie rock in October, quoting out female artists Holly Miranda, Erin McKeown and JD Samson. The consensus was that even in a creative space, there is still room for homophobes to damage the experience of queer musicians and attendees. And while not all artists agree on whether or not being considered a “gay/queer/lesbian band” is a good thing, they seem to all want fans from all walks of kinds to enjoy them and respect them, as well as their peers.

Tegan and Sara put out a live CD/DVD set called Get Along, but also became newsworthy when Sara Quin posted a blog with her thoughts on Odd Future’s homophobic and misogynistic frontman Tyler the Creator. Tyler shot back via Twitter and maintained he doesn’t hate gay people, which is why he has a lesbian, Syd tha Kid, as one of his crew members. Syd toured with Odd Future and played several huge festivals over the summer and was also the only out lesbian to be on the cover of Spin this year. (She was pictured alongside her Odd Future co-horts.) In November, she released the first single, “Cocaine,” off her side project, The Internet, which came with a disturbing video in which she gives a girl drugs and then pushes her out of her car. Syd has stated it was supposed to be a warning that cocaine is bad, but the vibe of the video is something else altogether.

Sara Quin also appeared on MC Theophilus London‘s track “Why Even Try?” and appeared with him on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Elsewhere in hip-hop, LGBT record label Rainbow Noise created a popular viral video for their song “Imma Homo.” The gay-positive message was delivered via a sick beat and talented crew of out rappers, mostly female.

Rappers T.I. and Fat Joe both discussed their views on gay people this year. While both are supportive of the community and an individual’s being who they are, the former had some eyebrow-raising things to say to Vibe about how we can all learn to take a joke. He was referencing the Tracy Morgan controversy from earlier this year, when the comic made a joke about killing his son if he came out to him as gay. Tracy has since apologized and asked T.I. to stop talking about it.

Out in Indie Land

Carrie Brownstein‘s new band Wild Flag became an instant indie hit with their self-titled debut album this fall. The bisexual frontwoman has also brought considerable new fans to her music after appearing on her hit IFC series Portlandia. The album has hit several best-of lists for the year.

JD Samson‘s band MEN released a significant dance-pop album this year, Work in Progress, which was full of queer and gender-based themes and lyrics. Their tour with fellow queer band CSS was consistently sold out across the U.S. CSS also had a dance-pop hit with their third album, La Liberación.

Vanity Theft (who released Get What You Came For this year), Sick of Sarah and Hunter Valentine took to the road together for The Lady Killer Tour. In the UK, Heather Peace and Jill Jackson teamed up for a tour. Heather played songs from her forthcoming album and Jill played from her 2011 album Back To Zero.

Austra became a band to watch in 2011 with out frontwoman Katie Stelmanis wowing with her esoteric style and operatic voice. Their album Feel it Break was nominated for the 2011 Polaris Prize. Katie told us of being part of a “gay band”: “I’d like to say being a ‘gay band’ means being gay and being in a band, but most of my band mates are gay and we’ve never really had that classification. I’m not sure if it’s based on the type of music we make or the community we come from, but I’ve always wondered why we seem to be exempt from the label. It probably has to do with the fact there are a lot of stereotypes of what a gay band — particularly lesbian-identified band — should sound like, and we don’t really fit in with those stereotypes, which is confusing.”

Out singer Beth Ditto released her solo EP this year with four songs. Her single, “I Wrote the Book,” reached the Top 100 charts in Australia, the UK and Belgium. After a short tour of Australia with bandmates in The Gossip, we should hear some new music from them in the next year.

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