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Queer Folk in Folk Music – Jordaan Mason & The Horse Museum

Written by Sam Booth

Queer music has continuously played an integral role within queer communities and identities, calls for action and awareness of key issues faced by queer people almost always incorporate music into their message. However, many view queer music to be intrinsically linked to a small set of genres. Pop, drag and dance music overwhelmingly represent the mainstream perception of queer music as, more often than not, it is all people are exposed to. The causes of this narrow understanding of queer music are easy to pin down, queer music is most often experienced within club or festival settings where only the aforementioned genres are likely to see any play.

“The primary downfall of these choices is that the cherry-picked artists and groups chosen represent such a small amount of such a vast style of music.”

The primary downfall of these choices is that the cherry-picked artists and groups chosen represent such a small amount of such a vast style of music. This has led to a musical culture that actively leaves out some of the most important artists and groups for the sake of their lesser mainstream appeal. One such artist is Jordaan Mason and their band, The Horse Museum, a Canadian group and later solo act whose unique brand of alternative folk has gone tragically unheard. Mason is of such importance, in my opinion, as their music speaks to themes often avoided by mainstream music for either the discomfort they cause or that they are perceived unrelatable of their chosen topics. The deeply personal and vulnerable nature of their music allows a listener to experience a unique insight into what it means to be queer on such a personal and individual level, something far too few people seem able to achieve. 

“The deeply personal and vulnerable nature of their music allows a listener to experience a unique insight into what it means to be queer on such a personal and individual level, something far too few people seem able to achieve.”

Without aiming to disparage other, more mainstream, queer artists, Mason’s style and disregard for causing discomfort truly set them apart from other artists within queer music. It’s unashamed, overtly open discussions and presentations of queer issues lend the music a tragic and truly sorrowful tone unlike any other artist. Upon listening to Mason’s debut album with The Horse Museum, ‘Divorce Lawyers I Shaved My Head’, the only album released with the Horse Museum band, it becomes effortless to both sympathise with and relate to Mason’s particular style of Folk. This album I would argue is the purest and most raw expression of Mason’s anger, sadness and despair for the loss of love, all of which are presented without filter and without regard for how they may be perceived.

“This album I would argue is the purest and most raw expression of Mason’s anger, sadness and despair for the loss of love, all of which are presented without filter and without regard for how they may be perceived.”

Musically, the album is a refreshing example of a purposely under-edited sound. The lack of any noticeable corrections or post recording alteration means each song feels personal and avoids the over-refined sound presented by more mainstream queer music. This is most evident in Mason’s alternative, raw vocal style and minimalist guitar work, favouring instead to rely on a stripped-down orchestral accompaniment, at least in their album with The Horse Museum. This album, and all of Mason’s work, are such an incredible breath of fresh air within an industry so viciously dedicated to presenting only the most mainstream and agreeable concepts. Through their music Mason shows the listener so much more than other artists, it is easy to feel a genuine connection with Mason as they are so clearly presenting their true self, rather than a mediated version of themselves.

After their first album with The Horse Museum Mason has gone on to release eleven albums over the last decade, each offering unique and fascinating perspectives both internally and externally. Highlights from these albums being ‘The Decline of Stupid Fucking Western Civilisation,’ ‘Together Not Together’ and their most recent album, ‘Earth to Ursa Major.’ The latter being a Canadian perspective on the UK’s choice to leave the EU, hence ‘Ursa Major.’ Arguably, Mason’s solo work post ‘Divorce Lawyers I Shaved My Head’ has been a less extreme expression of themselves, however since the album was released when Mason was 21 it is easy to see why that is. Amazingly, Mason’s first album ‘One Day the Horses Will Have Their Revenge’ was released on Bandcamp when they were only 16. Mason’s youth and the fact that they were still discovering who they were are clear reasons for the raw and unrefined sound on these albums and as they have aged it is again clear why these factors have become a lesser influence. If you would like to get into Mason’s music and back catalogue I would evidently recommend starting with ‘Divorce Lawyers I Shaved My Head’. Specifically, the songs ‘Avalanches’, ‘Prayer’, ‘____ Is Water’ and ‘1990 Was A Long Year and We Are All Out of Hot Water’ as they are both the most accessible and clearest presentations of Jordaan Mason’s style on the album.

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