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Photography by M. Sharkey
"Take it all in stride/ Speak, don't confide." That's a memorable couplet that Droste sings on Shields, his latest album with Brooklyn quartet Grizzly Bear, and an apt summary of the musician's output over the past nine years. There's always been a sense of knowing and not telling in the gorgeous guitar rock he and his bandmates produce. Shields, a thunderous, more outgoing achievement all but cements Droste's status as one of indie rock's most gifted singer-songwriters.
The term "gay rapper" was practically an oxymoron a year ago, but when Le1f (real name: Khalif Diouf) released his mixtape Dark York this past spring, it signaled the birth of a star. The video for his horn-driven banger "Wut" -- in which he's perched on top of a shirtless, Pikachu mask-wearing stud -- was a revelation. Still, he's quick to clarify his skewed take on hip-hop isn't shtick: "It's important to have gay black men out of the closet in the media -- and not in a way that's a ridiculous archetype."
In 2010, the man behind the electro-glam-pop act Diamond Rings caught our attention by applying a sequined basketball jersey and 10 layers of blush in his "Show Me Your Stuff" video. And show us he did, as an opening act for Robyn's Body Talk tour last year (which O'Regan compared to a master class in performance) and more recently with the tracks from his new album, Free Dimensional, co-produced with Damian Taylor, of Bjork and Austra fame.
Photographed at the Electric Room in the Dream Downtown Hotel in New York City on August 21, 2012 / Retouching by GLOSS