On Supernova (Girlyman.com), their first album since co-founding member Doris Muramatsu overcame cancer, Girlyman, now a queer quartet including drummer JJ Jones (ex-Po’ Girl), sounds healthy and ready to take on the world. Alternately burning brightly and flickering, the 13 songs on Supernova reflect the quartet’s personal trauma and how they were able to transform the experience into art of a universal nature. Opener “Nothing Left,” written and sung by Nate Borofsky, sets the tone for the record. Other emotionally powerful and revelatory moments occur on “Break Me Slow,” “Soul of You,” “Michelangelo,” “St. Augustine,” “No Matter What I Do,” “Long Time Gone,” the twangy “Best I Could,” and the title cut, on which Muramatsu takes the lead.
The prolific trio Girl in a Coma, who has released three full-length discs in three years, returns with Exits & All the Rest (Blackheart). Sticking with and refining their trademark blistering blues/garage-punk sound, Girl In a Coma rocks it out on tracks including “One Eyed Fool,” “Cemetery Baby,” “Hope,” and “Control.” GIAC also flirts with a commercial sound on the aptly titled “Smart” and soothes listeners in their distinctive fashion on “Mother’s Lullaby.”
Love at the Bottom of the Sea (Merge) marks The Magnetic Fields’ return to the label for which they made their celebrated and groundbreaking 1999 three-disc set 69 Love Songs. Stephin Merritt, the Tom Lehrer/Stephen Sondheim of his generation, continues to thrill us with his unique turns of phrase, humorous and serious, on songs such as “God Wants Us to Wait,” “Andrew in Drag,” “Your Girlfriend’s Face,” “I’d Go Anywhere with Hugh,” “Goin’ Back to the Country” (containing the stunning example of wordplay: “I’m gonna fly/back to Laramie/Let Laramie take care of me till they bury me”), “The Horrible Party,” “My Husband’s Pied-a-Terre,” and “All She Cares About Is Mariachi.” It’s no 69 Love Songs, but Love at the Bottom of the Sea isn’t all wet either.
Brit-folk band The Unthanks may be straight, but they have excellent taste when it comes to queer music. On Diversions Vol. 1: The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons (Rough Trade), six of the 15 tracks are their interpretations of songs by Antony Hegarty. In The Unthanks’s capable hands, with lead vocals by sisters Rachel Unthank and Becky Unthank, songs such as “You Are My Sister,” “Today I Am a Boy,” “Paddy’s Gone,” and “Spiralling” make the smooth transition to cover tunes. The Unthanks’s “go out and buy the originals” message also earns them a sizable dose of respect.
In April 2012, queer Brooklyn quartet The Shondes got an unexpected boost when their song “Are You Ready,” from their disc Searchlights (Exotic Fever), earned a plug from Entertainment Weekly in the mag’s Singles Swap column. It would be a shonde (sin, in Yiddish) if The Shondes didn’t become better known. They have a knack for writing songs as catchy as the ones that put The Gossip on the map, including the title cut and the aforementioned “Are You Ready,” as well as “Give Me What You’ve Got,” “Ocean to Ocean” (which sounds like Sleater-Kinney with strings), and “Coney Island Tonight.”
Dragapella foursome The Kinsey Sicks is to smart and sassy parody lyrics as The Magnetic Fields and Stephin Merritt are to originals. The election-themed Electile Dysfunction (kinseysicks.com) couldn’t have come at a better time, what with everyone’s minds on the approaching November presidential race. “Peoria” (to the tune of “Gloria”), “T’aint It Love?” (to the tune of “Tainted Love”), “Yahweh” (to the tune of “My Way”), “Toucha Touch Me (TSA Security)” (to the tune of “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me”), “Love Child: Politician Edition” (to the tune of “Love Child”), “I Will Watch YouTube” (to the tune of “Every Breath You Take”), and “Bedroom Ants” (to the tune of “Bad Romance”) rank among the Kinseys’ finest and funniest work. Brava, divas!
Brazilian dance act CSS provides one of the best soundtracks for your 2012 Pride party with La Liberacíon (V2/Downtown). You and your guests will have no trouble shaking your LGBT booties to cuts such as “I Love You,” “City Grrrl,” “Echo of Love,” “Rhythm to the Rebels,” the funky “Red Alert,” and “You Could Have It All” (the disc’s best track), all the while nodding your heads to the songs’ queer and feminist empowerment messages.
Landing somewhere between lesbian duos The Ditty Bops and the Indigo Girls, San Diego-based band mates and soul mates The Lovebirds (Lindsay White and Veronica May) are as comfortable covering Snoop Dogg’s hip-hop (“Beautiful”) as they are Jimmie Davis’s old-time gospel (“This is Just What Heaven Means to Me”). In between, on their debut disc Nutsy Pants (thelovebirdsmusic.com) they effortlessly demonstrate that they are equally adept at creating memorable original tunes, including “Love Is All It Takes,” “Victim and the Villain,” “Oh My,” “Forever for Now,” and “Love Letters.”
The Bay Area’s folk-pop foursome Blame Sally continues to impress with Speeding Ticket and a Valentine (Ninth Street/Opus). The combination of exceptional musicianship, revolving lead vocalists, and appealing songwriting makes this 10-track disc a standout. “Living Without You,” from which the disc’s title is taken, exemplifies the aforementioned qualities. Other highlights include “Big Big Bed,” “Take Me There,” “Countdown,” “Back in the Saddle,” and “Wide Open Spaces.”
Queer punk trio G.U.T.S. will knock the wind out of you (in a good way!) on their seven-song EP It Takes Guts! (tiik.com). An undeniable Patti Smith influence can be felt throughout the disc, most notably in lead singer Tiik Pollet’s amazing vocal performance style. “SuperSHE,” the bluesy “If U Don’t Like Livin’,” and the brilliant “Kissed a Girl” are among the standouts.
Be sure to say hello to Hi Tiger and their indescribable debut album i love music (hitigermusic.com). More theatrical than any of the other bands mentioned here, Hi Tiger occupies a space where spoken word (“Nukes”), hard-hitting punk (“Hey Dan”), dance-floor acrobatics (“20 Minutes” and “True Love”), experimentation (“The Feed”), and drama-queen techniques co-exist on the prowl for an open-minded audience.
Queer duo Hi-Fashion lives up to the claim of their song “Amazing!” on their six-track EP Sprechen Sie Hi-Fashion? (theworldofhifashion.com). In addition to addressing the subject of sexuality on the previously mentioned “Amazing!,” Hi-Fashion raps about style and glamour on “You Tuk My Luk,” being mistaken for someone else on “I’m Not Madonna,” and fights for the right to dance it out on “Rumble.”
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.