- The Magazine
When Canadian dance-pop artist Cory Stewart first began touring and getting radio play, there were already write-ups singling him out as one to watch. Now, with his debut album dropping this week, it would seem those voices are onto something. After turning heads in 2018 with his catchy, queer EP Different Sides, he has once again teamed up with producer Gavin Bradley, upping his game with his debut album, TOV (★★★★☆).
Although Stewart’s EP got some well-deserved attention when it dropped, these days he is probably better known to the internet as co-producer of the weekly Twitch-based LGBTQ indie music feature Queerantine, as well as the host of its aftershow. True to the show’s ethos of amplifying LGBTQ talent, Stewart brings on a roster of LBGTQ contributors and collaborators, including Jxckson, Kisos, MDL CHLD and Zach Benson. Michelle Mondesir, lead singer for Madame Psychosis, provides some powerful backing vocals on “End of Me,” bringing a showstopper of a dance track to a new level.
Organized into three acts titled “Betrayal,” “Heartbreak” and “Survival,” TOV is a meticulously well-crafted album, every inch the work of a thoughtful and attentive artist. Eager to tell a story with this album, Stewart intersperses some voiceover-heavy interstitials such as “Tu·mul·tu·ous Situation” and “Cut Those *** Off,” which feature voiceovers from himself and occasionally others as well, with effects layered overtop. They are a little self-indulgent, but do the job of orienting a listener to his state of mind.
With a sound that is squarely in the realm of dancepop, TOV is indebted to both the ’80s and the late 2000s. Its synths and beats point to Kylie Minogue and early Madonna, both of whom he highlights as influences, but also to the pop compilations of the late 2000s. His smooth, bright vocals and sparkling personality lend the album a lighthearted feeling that peaks with the key change that brings us into the latter third of “Little Lies,” adding another layer of gooey sentimentality to a track already swimming in it.
Stewart’s flair for drama gives some of the album’s tracks a theatrical twist as well, showing off his sense of humor and his nose for camp with flourishes like the distorted grandfather clock chimes that introduce “Poison” and the intense bursts of strings on “Do You.” These humorous moments elide the sense of heartbreak and resilience in the face of loss that comes to the surface at other points on the album. A voiceover of the album’s namesake, Cory Stewart’s late best friend Tovah, features on the final track, “Little One,” an unexpected tearjerker of a demo. Stewart’s mother also lends background vocals to “No More Trips To London,” written about the loss of his grandmother.
Thoughtfully produced, heavy with catchy dancepop, and full of soul-baring personal touches, TOV is a promising debut album. For all the queer talent Stewart has helped to bring a spotlight to via Twitch, it’s good to be reminded that he has plenty of his own to share.
TOV will be available to stream and purchase on January 22. Season 3 of Queerantine is set to premiere on January 24.
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