Queen of Swords: What Are You Listening To?

Queen of Swords: What Are You Listening To?

Aerin Fogel (formerly of the Bitters) has released her first self-titled album under the name Queen of Swords, and it’s a stately collection of bitter truths.

Fogel’s robust opener, ”Family Ties,” juxtaposes a composed rhythm with yearning vocals: “There are friends who venture inwards/while the rest remain outside,” she sings. The lilting “Rise Instead” further solidifies this duality. Fogel’s bright vocals peak here with conviction while she sings of the cyclical nature of pain and redemption.

“When a song hits me, it’s usually because it captures something in a way that feels true,” Fogel tells TIDAL. “Whether that’s a feeling, experience, or a perspective on reality, I look for artists that offer bridges of connection through their work.”

Fogel put together the below playlist, featuring “some of my favorite songs from the last couple of years and major inspirations for the Queen of Swords record. I find that joy is harder to capture than sorrow, so the songs that let it ring true are precious gifts.”


Weaves, “#53″
The first single off their sophomore album about to drop, ‘#53,’ shows a more refined side of the band. Jasmyn Burke is yet again able to synthesize a shared experience into a gem of pop music.

Flock of Dimes, “Everything is Happening Today”
So much of our great music captures a particular kind of struggle in a real and honest way. So rarely, I find, do I come across a song that captures true joy as perfectly as this one. Not unsurprisingly, Jenn Wasner is singing about presence, the here and now. Managing to actually be present is an incredible source of joy.

DIANA, “Born Again”
This is a line we need right now in our world: ‘Now’s the time for believing/lay your hands on me I need healing/born again tonight.’ Front woman Carmen Elle has used her platform in DIANA to share her vulnerable struggle with anxiety and its relationship to her work as an artist. Time and again their songs let music be a moment of healing and a way to connect people through shared experience.

U.S. Girls, “Damn that Valley”
Influenced by Sebastian Junger’s book War, ‘Damn that Valley’ explores the anger and distress of a young widow whose husband dies fighting for his country. As always, Meg Remy is able to locate the powerful emotions of an individual lost in the greater context of political and systemic restraint.

Witch Prophet, “Listen”
‘Listen…don’t let the fear take over.’ Ayo Leilani (a.k.a. Witch Prophet) brings us this soothing cut with words of true wisdom. What would life be like if we knew how to not be taken over by fear? Another stunning single here builds anticipation for a full record soon to come from Witch Prophet.

Emel Mathlouthi, “Ensen Dhaif”
After her music was banned from Tunisia when it spurned its own revolution during the Arab Spring, Emel Mathlouthi brought her magnificent force of healing and truth to New York for the release of Ensen. The video for ‘Ensen Dhaif’ explores that revolution from varying states of oppression, be they circumstantial or internally imposed.

Phèdre, “In Decay”
Known for their intensely erratic and psychedelic pop, Phèdre bring us this vivid NSFW mixture of lovers in decay, in color, in goop and chains. Singer April Aliermo holds down an active role in countless Toronto community initiatives, and as a duo with Daniel Lee, brings a joyful and liberating live set.

Y la Bamba, “Libre”
On her fourth album, Ojos Del Sol, Y la Bamba creator Luz Elena Mendoza returns to themes of searching, metamorphosis, shared humanity, a faith that is greater than just religion. ‘I am thankful for all of my hardships, they have guided me to find rest in my soul, time after time. Over and over again,’ Mendoza says. ‘Libre’ is about universal love and resting in freedom from chaos.

Lido Pimienta, “Agua”
Lido has built a steady empire with her powerful words, poetry, and voice of strength and justice. ‘Agua’ speaks of water rights as a basic right of all beings, and the hope and innocence that lies in our younger generations to carry a brighter torch into the future.

Madame Gandhi, “Her”
Known originally as the drummer for M.I.A and the 2015 L.A. Marathon’s free-bleeding runner, Madame Gandhi has quickly launched an explosive career with a mission to celebrate and elevate the female voice. ‘Her,’ inspired by Margaret Atwood and released while Hillary Clinton was still in the running, is an ode to female leadership.

Austra, “I Love You More than You Love Yourself”
In this video, singer Katie Stelmanis takes on the complex story of Lisa Nowak, former NASA astronaut who experienced a psychological break and was charged for the resulting course of events. Austra’s third album, Future Politics, envisions how we might lean into a more utopian iteration of our world, while songs like this account for the distance we still stand from our utopia.

Wake Owl, “The Gods We Need”
The title of this song is so evocative, and as always Wake Owl seems able to translate the meaning of his words through a sound, a melody, the feeling of a song. It goes right down to the bones.

Jennifer Castle, “Nature”
Jennifer Castle was one of the first women I admired coming into the Toronto music scene as a teenager. Her stunning melodies and gentle sensitivity capture any room. The final line of this song is one of the most perfectly descriptive lines I’ve ever heard.

Michele Nox, “Boa”
Michele is a rare kind of artist that is able to silence a whole venue, no matter how many people are in it. She is an angelic presence, creating music that is honest, heartfelt, and as you were there in the corner of the room while the song was being written.

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