The Deal: If Johnny Cash and Amy Winehouse somehow made a baby, 27-year-old bronx-born Puerto Rican front-woman Alynda Lee Segarra would be the result. The Riff Raff is a folk band that, as a whole, identifies as queer. Segarra constantly strives to change the way women are portrayed in traditional folk music. “Any way I can spread love amongst women, whether romantic or not, is important to me,” the singer-songwriter told BuzzFeed.
“Pronouns are very fun to play with as a songwriter — there is a lot of weight in them. When I first started writing songs, I wanted to sing my love songs to women, whether they be my best friends or a character I created. I thought it was powerful for a woman to sing love to other women, and that isn’t about sex to me […] It’s about respect and complications, about seeing these women as full human beings who are stunning in all of their ways and also painfully mysterious,” she said.
The rest of the Riff Raff includes trans fiddler Yosi Perlstein, bassist Callie Millington, and drummer David Jamison, who collectively released the album Small Town Heroes at the beginning of this year.
Listen if you love: Shovels & Rope, Laura Marling, or old Johnny Cash records on repeat.
Song to get hooked on: “The Body Electric”
The Deal: The canadian pop singer released her debut full-length album We Loved Her Dearly in September of 2014, but it’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon. After all, it takes supreme talent to write a song entitled “LGBT” that manages to be super catchy — not hokey.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using sex to empower yourself, if you are comfortable with that,” Lowell, who identifies as bisexual, told Rolling Stone. “What drives me now, more than the pop star spotlight bullshit, is trying to be a positive influence in people’s lives. I want to share a story that hopefully somebody somewhere can relate to and feel stronger because of it.”
If you’re hanging out in Canada, you may be lucky enough to catch her on tour.
Song to get hooked on: “The Bells”
The Deal: You may have never heard of “The Writer” but you’ve heard her work. The songwriter and producer has worked closely alongside big names like R. Kelly, DMX, and Janet Jackson — ghostwriting song after song. Tanya White, aka Freckles, will have her own LP out this summer. The XPeriment will be filled with writing from her own experiences.
“Even though I’m an androgynous gay woman, my music isn’t gay. It’s just good music,” Freckles recently told LA Weekly. “There’s somebody somewhere that’s like me that feels like they have to put on the lipstick and wear the heels when they really don’t want to, thinking, ‘I can’t be myself.’ Thank God Sony is allowing me to be who I am.”
Listen if you love: TLC, Ciara, or R. Kelly (of course), or bumpin’ and grindin’ in your bedroom alone.
Song to get hooked on: “Uh Huh”
4. Julia Weldon
The Deal: Weldon identifies as queer and “definitely not a lesbian folk singer.” All jokes aside, the New York-based singer-songwriter is brazenly open in her work. “I never hide that I’m writing about women in my songs and it feels good to be as honest as possible,” the singer told BuzzFeed. “I feel lucky I don’t feel the need to censor my song ideas through editing or omitting gendered pronouns.”
The completely self-taught musician finds songwriting “vulnerable but really rewarding” work. “You know, I used to think I could only write when I was in a sad or dark place but it’s been interesting to work towards sharing new and even joyful parts of myself.”
You can catch Weldon currently touring her latest album, Light Is a Ghost.
Listen if you love: Cat Power, the feeling of driving alone on a rainy day, or Neko Case.
Song to get hooked on: “All I Gave Her”
The Deal: Throw guitarists Saara Untracht-Oakner and Glenn Van Dyke, along with drummer Matthew Gregory, into a blender and you get one tall glass of BOYTOY. When asked what is the one thing they want fans to know, the Brooklyn trio told BuzzFeed: “It’s okay to dance at shows.” That’s about as serious as this trio gets. In their upbeat, guitar-heavy singles they don’t hesitate to call out superficial callousness or make utter fools of themselves.
You can get their EP on limited release vinyl here.
Listen if you love: Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre, and going to dive bars on the beach.
Song to get hooked on: “Blazed”
The Deal: Need more funky R&B/hip-hop in your life? You can thank this Seattle duo later. Stasia “Stas” Irons and singer Catherine “Cat” Harris-White met in college; it only took a few years for the pair to be signed by Sub Pop Records.
The duo bring together their own unique flavors to create one irresistible sound. “We definitely bring different genres and sounds,” Stas said in a 2012 interview. “I like a lot of gangsta rap from the 90s and that’s something that Cat didn’t really know about before we met. And then Cat brought in a lot of jazz – things like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald – and I wasn’t familiar with that, so we combined those two and that’s what our music sounds like!”
Their second studio album EarthEE was released earlier this year.
Listen if you like: Blood Orange, the feeling of a brand new sweatshirt, Shabazz Palaces, or The Internet.
Song to get hooked on: “EarthEE”
7. Chris Pureka
The Deal: If your dream is to sip coffee in the pacific northwest as the fog rolls over the mountains, Pureka’s acoustic strumming will make you feel like you’re already there. The east-coast native (now Portland local) and “scientist turned musician” has been writing and playing guitar since the age of sixteen. In 2004 Pureka released Driving North, her first full-length album, and hasn’t stopped creating acoustic melodies since.
“I write my songs with the intention that people will have an emotional response to them. They are not meant to be background or vibe music. They are meant to be heard and felt,” she told BuzzFeed. “My hope is that some of those songs will resonate with someone on whatever journey they are on.” Pureka is back in the studio, currently workining on a new record which will be released in early 2016.
Listen if you love: Brandi Carlile, foggy days, Erin McKeown, or if you own a Chemex coffee thing.
Song to get hooked on: “Shipwreck”
The Deal: Allison Weiss summing up Allison Weiss in one sentence: “My music sounds super fun because I’m trying to hide the fact that it’s super sad.” The LA-based indie-pop artist couldn’t have said it better. “If you’ve ever loved somebody or lost somebody, you’re probably going to like it. Actually, even if you’ve never loved or lost, you’ll probably still like it,” she told BuzzFeed.
Weiss ensures her music is easy to click with by avoiding pronouns. “Music is all about human connection for me. I want listeners to feel like the songs are theirs, so I typically keep gender out of it.” The out gay musician is currently engaged to “the greatest person on Earth who happens to be female,” but she usually prefers using “queer” to describe herself.
Weiss will have new tunes — OK, an entire new album — out this fall.
Listen if you love: Eisley, crying at sad movies, Jenny Owens Young, or The Hush Sound.
Song to get hooked on: “Wait For Me”
The Deal: This Brooklyn-duo is here to fill the large, gaping electro-pop hole in your life. When asked what the one thing listeners should know about Tomboy was, bandmate Sarah Aument told BuzzFeed, “We like swimming in the ocean.” That’s the perfect answer, really, since the group’s sound is layer upon layer of experimental percussion and inventive sounds — you’ll be drowning in the best way possible.
“I like to keep all of the pronouns [in our lyrics] neutral (you, they) because I don’t like limiting the characters to one identity,” Aument said. You can catch a performance in the New York City area as they work on their next release.
Listen if you love: SBTRKT, the feeling of dancing alone in a crowd, Reptar, Jamie XX.
Song to get hooked on: “Hang Out”
10. Little Brutes
The Deal: Rachael Cantu, one half of this electro-pop duo, is a singer-songwriter “playing the long game” in her music career. “Learning and growing slowly but surely, not knowing how to stop and coming to terms with the fact that I don’t want to,” she told BuzzFeed about her journey to musical success.
Although the band’s lyrics, in terms of pronouns, are usually ambiguous, Cantu did write one song with her wife (Liz Feldman) in mind. “It felt powerful to refer to her in the song,” she said. “I don’t think I had ever consciously censored my lyrics, but this song made me think twice about there possibly being a fear there I was not aware of.”
The one thing Cantu hopes listeners take away from her tunes? Healing. “I will gladly be the soundtrack to a good, solid cry or a euphoric feeling on a sunny day. That’s why I listen to music, so I can only hope that’s why people listen to me,” she said.