Orville Peck, the mysterious masked cowboy, clad all in well-worn leather and vibrant satin, captured my imagination when he tumbled into my inbox early this year. But it was his music – otherworldly love songs sung from society’s fringes – that kept me hooked. The warped alt-country on Peck’s remarkable debut album, Pony, merges Johnny Cash-style storytelling with Twin Peaks wooziness, velvet-smooth vocals and – most importantly – his knack for teasing out a killer tune. For Peck, a gay man singing love songs not just to his characters but to an entire community, his cowboy alter-ego is a response to the isolation he felt growing up. It also protects him from “daily hate, bullying, aggression, and people actively trying to discredit what I do”. A self-professed outsider, he crafted an alternate reality in which he’s accepted and free. Peck sings about a world we can never really know because it’s a world which is his, and his alone. Conversely, it’s a world where anyone’s welcome. Here is an artist who doesn’t belong to anyone, who simultaneously belongs to us all.