Mosaic (jannklose.com), the third full-length disc by Jann Klose, sounds like the international gay singer/songwriter’s breakthrough album. Klose opens the disc with two songs, “Make It Better” and “Know What’s Right,” in which he sings in his most political voice, expressing his desire for global LGBT equality. Klose also has a knack for writing memorable love songs, exemplified here by “Still” and “On and On.” Lucky for listeners, “Four Leaf Clover” is a perfect pop gem. Klose fiddles around with his country side on “Beautiful One,” featuring Carrie Newcomer. He closes the disc with an exquisite a cappella rendition of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” which also functions as a reminder that Klose can be seen in the Jeff Buckley biopic Greetings from Tim Buckley.
What sets JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound apart from retro-soul-revivalists such as Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings (get well soon, Miss Sharon!) and Fitz & The Tantrums (sorry your new disc is such a disappointment!)? JC Brooks, of course! It’s all there for your ears on Howl (Bloodshot). The openly gay lead vocalist and acclaimed actor Jayson Brooks brings the drama when necessary (“River,” “Married for a Week,” the hot heartache of “Cold”). He also knows how to throw a party like nobody’s business (the aptly named title tune, the sexy “Security,” funky floor-burner “Before You Die,” and the pop pleasure of “Not Alone”). The album’s real treats are all the way at the end, where Brooks and the Uptown Sound venture into exciting sonic territory on “Control” and “These Things.”
Kevin Newhall has been on quite an artistic journey. From his former days as a CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) performer to the present as an out and proud queer musician, Newhall has his say on If I Had My Way with Words (kevin-newhall.com). The irresistible “Today’s the Day” expresses sentiments that many listeners will be able to relate to, doing so with a touch of humor. “Dear Jonathan” is a heartbreaking musical letter to an ex that is sure to make more than a few eyes water. “Easy Chair” is a current-events update set to music. Newhall adds strings to “I’m Afraid” and “Familiar Tune,” and strips things down for the personal bio of “Dust.”
Partygoing is an ironic title for the third full-length disc by Future Bible Heroes, the trio led by prolific queer songwriter Stephin Merrit (The Magnetic Fields, The 6th, and The Gothic Archies) and featuring Claudia Gonson and Christopher Ewen. Closer in mood and spirit to FBH’s dark debut Memories of Love than to its stellar sophomore effort Eternal Youth, Partygoing is anything but a party and might even give some party guests cause to pause. The party gets off to a slow start, although “A Drink Is Just the Thing” is an effective lubricant. “Let’s Go to Sleep (and Never Come Back)” not only picks up the pace, but also gives Merritt a chance to show off his gift for wordplay. “A New Kind of Town” is pleasantly bouncy, and the album’s centerpiece “Living, Loving, Partygoing” is a name-dropping electro delight. “Keep Your Children in a Coma” and the Giorgio Moroder-esque “Digging My Own Grave” combine dancing with laughing, while “Drink Nothing but Champagne” is the toast of the town.
Jay Spears makes his eagerly awaited return with We Are All Born Lucky (jayspears.com). Known for his distinctive and humorous perspective, Spears sets the tone with the earth-shaking opener “When the Big One Hits,” singing about “histrionics over plate tectonics.” With “Guy in the Sky,” Spears has crafted an atheist anthem that will have non-believers testifying, while “Meat” should send the vegans running for cover. The “Drive Time” rap wraps up SoCal traffic, and “Revolution” is a call to arms. We’re all lucky to have Spears back in action.
Nude (theirrepressibles.com), the second disc by UK chamber pop act The Irrepressibles, is every bit as gorgeous as the best music made by Sigur Rós or Antony & The Johnsons. Led by “nouveau international gay music icon” Jamie McDermott, coming off a recent YouTube censorship run-in (see the “Two Men in Love” video), The Irrepressibles are, in a word, irrepressible. Nude is a thing of beauty from dazzling arrangements and performances of “Pale Sweet Healing,” “New World,” and the aforementioned “Two Men in Love.” When McDermott and the band cut loose, as they do on the high-flying “Arrow,” the salty “Tears” and smooth-sailing “Ship,” you know you are hearing something special and wonderful.
The Random Hubiak wasn’t kidding when he called his latest disc Memoirs of a Manwhore: The Reeling Waltz of a Drunken Lothario (therandomhubiak.fourfour.com). Musical influences ranging from Tom Waits to Elton John to Ben Folds and Regina Spektor all come through loud and clear. But The Random Hubiak’s lyrics are what sets him apart from his influences, particularly on standout tracks such as “Happy to Be Your Whore,” “Hip Little City” (hear Elton John?), “Hotel by the River,” “The Trick” (hear Billy Joel?), and “Car in the Rain.”
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.