Still Making History
New music to celebrate our history by.
Happy GLBT History Month! With Pride festivities and celebrations stored in our memories (and probably on some hard drives, as well), October has rolled around to remind us to get a little more serious about our queer heritage. But getting too serious and reflective is potentially boring, so here are some musical suggestions to enhance your observances.
It’s practically impossible to think about recent GLBT history and not pay homage to the Cyndi Lauper -organized True Colors tour of June 2007 (“True Friend,” June 2007OutSmart). A benefit for the Human Rights Campaign, and other worthy causes, the tour stopped in a number of major metropolitan areas, including Houston, with a combination of regularly appearing performers and guest artists. The various artists compilation True Colors (Silver Label) is an interesting cross-section of participating performers such as the queer-identified Amanda Palmer (and her partner Brian Viglione of the Dresden Dolls), Erasure, The Cliks, Indigo Girls, Rufus Wainwright, The Gossip, and Erasure, to name a few. Kudos to Lauper, or whoever guided the production of the set, for avoiding the usual circuit-type of DJs (you know who you are!) and instead selecting the openly gay electro artist and DJ (Richard) Morel’s Pink Noise Edit Mix of the diva’s trademark “True Colors” tune.
Singer/songwriter Jeffrey Altergott comes from the same GLBT Chicago music scene that is home to OutMusic Award winners Scott Free and Dylan Rice. The “passion and desire” he sings about in opening track “Brothers Beautiful” (featuring the stunning cello work of Catarina VanEpps) from his latest album, Don’t Be a Stranger (jeffreyaltergott.com), burns brightly throughout the disc. From the dizzying “Thank You” and playfully erotic “Kickstand” to the domestic bliss of “Every Day Is a Reason,” and the unraveling of “Undone,” Altergott continues to be an artist to watch and admire. Even his cover choices, the lovely acoustic readings of “Over the Rainbow” and his own “Breakneck Speed,” are worth mentioning.
High profile (and occasionally overexposed) gay singer Ari Gold has returned after scooping up some OutMusic Awards in 2005. Not only is his new disc Transport Systems (Centaur) on a well-respected queer dance label, but out sax player Dave Koz can also be heard on the disc’s closing track, “Love Wasn’t Built in a Day.” If this, in combination with Gold’s longstanding domination of the GLBT cable network Logo, doesn’t indicate some degree of arrival, then perhaps he should have his transport systems checked.
When queer Frenchman Naommon , who accurately describes his sound as “electro- purple-fluoro-
plastic-sulky- acid-housey-soul-clashy-disco-sequin-pop,” is good, he’s very good. On his U.S. debut disc, Allnighter (naommon.com), that holds true for about half of it. “You’re So Boyish” and “I’m a Woman” show a genuine appreciation for Human League-era electro. “Beginning Everyday,” perhaps the most straightforward pop tune on the disc, is refreshing and just plain fun. Among the assorted hip-hop-oriented tracks on the disc, “Hurry Up” is clearly the most successful. To Naommon’s credit, “You Go to My Head” goes to both the listener’s head and feet.
Out Montreal-based electro musician Montag (a.k.a. Antoine Bédard), makes some intriguing statements on his album Going Places (Carpark). The disc opens with the precisely titled “I Have Sound,” a sumptuous and layered track with an almost Polyphonic Spree choral feel and a gradually building beat. “Best Boy Electronic” lives up to its name, blipping and bouncing like a vintage video game. Montag’s specialty seems to be putting a soft glow on electro, as he does on “Alice,” “322 Water,” and “Softness, I Forgot Your Name.” He picks up the pace again with “Safe in Sound” and “No One Else.” From every indication, there is no doubt that Montag can be expected to go places.
Darren Hayes, the out half of defunct Down Under-pop duo Savage Garden (the Wham! of their day, if you will) hasn’t been sitting idle since his 2002 solo domestic debut tanked. He did, in fact, put out a second full-length disc. But don’t worry your pretty little head about it. He has a new album, the double disc set, This Delicate Thing We’ve Made (Powdered Sugar), in case you missed the previous releases. Not delicate in the least, Hayes provides ample proof of his versatility over the course of 25 tracks. As with Savage Garden, Hayes’ solo work balances the beats (“How to Build a Time Machine,” “Listen All You People,” “On the Verge of Something Wonderful,” “Me Myself and [I],” “Setting Sun”) and the ballads (“Step into the Light,” “The Great Big Disconnect,” “Walk Away,” “Maybe,” and “A Hundred Challenging Things a Boy Can Do”). He even channels Prince (“Bombs Up in My Face”).
It’s been said that a singer/songwriter’s choice of cover material says something about the artist. On his mostly electronic, generic full-length debut, Breathe Life (Solid Sound), Brian Kent chose Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Enough said.
Cosmos (craymo.com) by Craymo illustrates the gay musician’s knack for a variety of musical styles, with the electro-leaning tracks rating higher than the others.
Nineties electronic music pioneer Khan returns with the restless Who Never Rests (Tomlab), featuring standout tracks such as “Strip Down,” “Golden Dawn,” “Take It Out on Me,” “Favor After Favor,” and “You Like to Party?”
Working under the moniker Agent D, Storybox is described as the “poptronic music outlet” for gay musician Dave Montana , who obviously has both an appreciation for the combined heydays of dance music and new wave, as exhibited on the disc No Dancing Allowed (Section 44).
Former Chicagoan and recent San Francisco transplant Cathy Richardson received a Grammy nom for the packaging of her previous disc, and it wouldn’t be surprising if lightning struck twice when it came to her latest album, Delusions of Grandeur (Ca$h Rich). Of course, the music inside the package, including “G.O.D.,” “Ain’t No Home,” “I Don’t Want Anything,” the drunk-dialing drama of “A Phone Call to Joe Quinn,” and the highly recommended “Closet Cultivator,” is also Grammy quality. Damn, that lesbian can sing!
Earlier this year, the remarkable Erin McKeown released the sinsational “Sing You Sinners,” a collection of her interpretation of modern standards. Recorded around the same time as the release of that disc at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, Lafayette (Signature Sounds) is an intimate live disc in which McKeown also reaches into her own back catalog to create a marvelous set that showcases her at her finest. If you’ve never seen her live, don’t rely on this disc to do the trick. You owe it to yourself to have the experience firsthand.
Billed as “stories and observations” by Mirah and Spectratone International , the heady project Share This Place (K) involves insects, inspired by the writings of French entomologist Jean Henri Fabré and the anthropomorphic drama The Insect Play by the Czech brothers Karel and Josef Capek with a dash of Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” thrown in. But don’t bug out! This is fascinating and hypnotic Gogol Bordello-style music in spite of (or maybe due to) titles such as “Gestation of the Sacred Beetle,” “Emergence of the Primary Larva,” “Love Song of the Fly,” “Luminescence,” and especially “My Lord Who Hums.” Share this Place is part of a multimedia project commissioned by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and the Seattle International Children’s Festival, with accompanying stop-motion video by Britta Johnson.
Gregg Shapiro is a past recipient of the annual OutMusic award that recognizes contributions by non-musicians in furthering the work of GLBT performers.