People still want to feel part of a congregation. I feel that pull too. I want a life where the people I love can live their lives freely and authentically and with as much joy and sense of connection to the world around them as their hearts can take. After all, the hard work isn’t balancing multiple relationships. The real challenge is to build a world where they’re accepted by everyone else, a world where loving more than one person isn’t seen as a deviant character flaw. That starts with re-examining the antiquated legal framework that still defines our lives.
It is, as you or some of your relatives may have felt compelled to declare this week, too hot. Temperatures today and Tuesday are expected to skyrocket towards 41°C in parts of the UK, with the Met Office issuing its first red weather warning for extreme heat.
To remark that it is too hot is to participate in a generation-spanning dance that, in the UK, involves a number of flourishes: the puffing of cheeks; the widening and rolling of eyes; the performative fanning of shirt collars. For the people anxiously aware of the implications of this heat, the phrase takes on a more literal tone. Quite simply, perpetual record-breaking heatwaves will ultimately be the death of us all.
Partway through MUNA’s live show at The Garage in May, just as the “country section” of the set had been announced, a trio of homemade Stetsons are tossed on stage from the crowd. It’s an absurdly perfect pop culture moment, like something from the closing scenes of a romcom where the bunch of ragtag misfits finally win the hearts of their schoolmates. “I know that some people thought that we had choreographed the cowboy hat moment, that those were our props,” guitarist Naomi McPherson tells GQ. “It was not. They were made for us, and it was so sweet.”
Then again, the LA trio’s career really is starting to look triumphant lately. For “Silk Chiffon” – last year’s invincible, Phoebe Bridgers-featuring ode to queer joy, and the first single from their new self-titled album – the band even cast a cinematic nod to cult classic But I’m A Cheerleader for the music video, another moment of bliss cast in hot pinks and baby blues.
I’m standing in an undetermined liminal zone with a floating rainbow icon in front of me. Way beneath me is the Milky Way, a spectacular astral vista that renders our home galaxy an incidental detail in an ocean of stars. For once, this is not the result of a heroic dose of acid at a Pride afterparty, but the lobby of the world’s first virtual reality LGBTQ+ museum.
When Abby Roberts was nine years old she made the executive decision to kick-start her career, shaving her head, recording a La Roux cover and posting the results on Facebook. It didn’t quite go to plan; in Roberts’ own words, everyone at school “just shit on it”. Confidence knocked, her singing took a back seat for a while. “It wasn’t until years later that my parents were like ‘You should really do something with this,’” she says.
Today we’re speaking across a table at Rough Trade in Bristol, where the 20-year-old Leeds-born musician is hours away from walking on stage to a sea of fans ready to sing the words of her early singles back to her. It’s an impressive achievement for an artist who, on the day of our conversation, can count her live shows on both hands. It’s also something of an underplay: June will see Roberts support Halsey on their US tour, including a stop at LA’s Hollywood Bowl.
Annie Clark needs oat milk. The request arrives quietly and politely just before we speak, a hushed nothing off-handset before she picks up the phone and greets me brightly. Does she need any of mine, perhaps?
“Oh, it’s crucial,” the 39-year-old riffs back to me from her studio in LA. “Could I borrow some? Would you do that? I need to reach my maximum caffeination, and I haven’t met my quota for the day. Oat milk’s an integral part of it.”
If it seems like a wholly unremarkable exchange between a musician and a journalist, you may be unfamiliar with the various tales of Clark’s mercurial attitude to press interviews over the past decade or so. Previous set-ups have included requesting interviewers crawl into a small space to “challenge” both parties, playing pre-recorded answers to boring questions, asking the interview if they “enjoy doing this,” or simply refusing to answer at all. The result has largely been a proliferation of beard-scratching discourse about who or what constitutes the ‘real’ St. Vincent, or the ‘real’ Annie Clark, and how much one might inform the other.
Dressed in black trousers and a short-sleeved white shirt that suggested he may have just wrapped up an additional shift as a bus driver, singer Joe Talbot veered between the empathic and the vitriolic in his between-song missives as readily as he does in his music. 2021 album Crawler formed over a third of the set, and the frontman rarely missed an opportunity to lay blame at the UK’s incumbent Conservative government – not least on “Mother”, reminding listeners that “the best way to scare a Tory is to read and get rich”.
The focus of the evening never vanished. As the night’s entertainment drew to a close, Moscow was reportedly planning to annex Donetsk and Luhansk, while the European Union prepared to sanction Russian oil. The victims remain elsewhere, the extraordinary amount of money raised a temporary balm to a deeper political fracture.
Festivals are upon us once more, and, like the number of celebrities willing to cross a picket line to share wellness tips and vicarious drama with Beyoncé, some things in life remain exhaustingly predictable. Workshops on subjects ranging from lock-picking to 3D printing; artists performing in venues that include the local bus and a retro video games arcade; live-action Dungeons & Dragons, wherein someone successfully punches a fire; and of course, a procession of drag acts with show-stopping choreo sequences, including one ‘Ship To Wreck’ performance that involves someone dressed up as an actual boat.
Okay, so perhaps they do things a little differently in Boise.
Across gardens, harbours, invisible towns and fountains that empty the world, Cate Le Bon’s sixth solo album charts out territories beyond the locked-down rooms of Reykjavik and Cardiff where it began life, beyond even the mercurial world outside of them. While certain records from this era will no doubt bear the mark of the zeitgeist more than others – Charli XCX’s ‘How I’m Feeling Now’, Sleaford Mods’ ‘Spare Ribs’ – ‘Pompeii’ will be better remembered as an excursion from the banal than a documentary of it.
Theoretical physicists will tell you that our linear concept of time and space is a fallacy, that the speculative worlds we dream up when we imagine different choices – catching that train, getting that job, kissing that person on that night – are not only possible, but happening right now in concurrent dimensions. Which means, of course, that there’s a world out there somewhere in which The OA is still going. So why isn’t it this one?