Queers for Your Ears
John Grant, Troye Sivan, Calum Scott, Morgxn, Corey TuT, Logan Lynn, and more.
Queer male musical acts such as Perfume Genius, Car Seat Headrest, Mnek, Shamir, and John Grant are boldly proving that there’s more to gay men’s listening habits than disco and show tunes. A founding member of the highly regarded ’90s/early ’00s band The Czars, Grant’s solo output is alternately challenging and approachable. His latest, Love Is Magic (Partisan), falls somewhere between the accessibility of 2013’s Pale Green Ghosts and 2015’s slightly difficult Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Grant is known for his lengthy and varied songs, and he doesn’t disappoint here. “Metamorphosis” shifts gears like a car on an inclining road. The title cut, in which Sade gets name-checked, casts a spell on the listener. “Tempest” suggests a queer arcade game, and the sexy electronics of “Preppy Boy” deserves to be a standard at tea-dance, while “He’s Got His Mother’s Hips” adds some serious funk to the mix. “Touch and Go” is the most beautiful song Grant has recorded since “GMF.”
Gay singer/songwriter/actor Troye Sivan made an indel-ible impression with his 2015 debut album Blue Neighbourhood. Likewise, his second album Bloom (Capitol), was not only worth the wait, but effortlessly delivers on the promise of the first. Sivan and his producers employ an assortment of studio wizardry, but the good news is that the songs, all co-written by Sivan, are solid enough not to be overpowered. Opener “Seventeen” will speak to any LGBTQ folks who knew they were queer from an early age. The aptly titled “My My My!” and “Dance to This” (featuring Ariana Grande) are sexy dance numbers. “What a Heavenly Way to Die” and the title cut are also worth mentioning.
Talent show competitor Calum Scott’s exquisite reimagining of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” as a ballad hinted at his great taste in music. That song, as well as a reading of Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” can both be found on Scott’s full-length debut album Only Human (Capitol), newly reissued in an expanded special edition including five bonus tracks. In addition to being indicative of his interpretation skills, they also demonstrate his vocal abilities—the guy can sing! The original songs (co-written by Scott and a team of collaborators), including the Leona Lewis duet “You Are the Reason” and the rhythmic “Give Me Something,” tend to be in the Sam Smith category, and Scott more than distinguishes himself in that realm. Among the new tunes, the breathtaking coming-out number “No Matter What” is nothing less than stunning.
On Vital (Wanderlust/Hollywood), gay pop singer/songwriter Morgxn sounds like he wants to be the stateside version of Troye Sivan and Calum Scott, more than he wants to be John Grant. However, his cover of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry,” which closes the album, does show an interesting and unexpected side to the artist. Morgxn gets our pulse racing with dance-oriented cuts such as opening track “Translucent,” “XX,” and “Harpoon (How Does It Feel).” Songs such as “Me Without You” and “Carry the Weight” incorporate some of the tech that is popular these days.
The Corey TuT of 2018’s Into the Light (coreytut.com) is a far cry from the Corey TuT of 2013’s Chasing Down the Bedlam. TuT has set aside his edgy rock sound and traded it for a musical style geared toward the dance-music scene. The clubby title cut gets things moving on an energetic level. You can hear the influence of Madonna’s recent output on “Automatic,” and “Remedy” is good for what ails you. “Hey There Superman” elevates things, while “Everything & Nothing” and “Too Much” have a kind of retro disposition. The six bonus tracks, including the luminous “Sparks” and “Hands” (featuring gay basketball player and musician Will Sheridan), keep the party going into the late hours.
Nine albums into his recording career, Logan Lynn’s My Movie Star is easily his most ambitious project to date. The oversized package consists of the 10-song album on the first disc and a second disc of remixes, as well as other artists covering a few songs from My Movie Star. With the exception of the title cut, the songs, co-produced by Lynn and Jay Mohr (yes, that Jay Mohr!), were co-written by Lynn and piano sensation Glasys. In other words, this album is a new and unexpected direction for Lynn, who is perhaps best known for his electronic music stylings. Among the cover versions on the second disc, the rendition of “Big City Now” by Tiffany (yes, that Tiffany!), is a must.
Like Logan Lynn, queer “psychedelic progressive gothic rock” artist Phideaux has returned with his ninth album, Infernal (Bloodfish), the third and final installment in his “Big Brother authoritarianism and ecological crisis” trilogy. The 19-track, double-disc set features a broad array of musicians performing Phideaux, as well as artwork by Molly Ruttan. If this kind of prog-pop is your cup of kombucha, you might also want to check out Amethyst Journey (PEG), by Alaska + Jeremy (Alaska Thunderfuck, RuPaul’s Drag Race season two champ, and chosen creative family member Jeremy Mikush).
Gay crooner Spencer Day is sort of our very own queer Michael Bublé. Backed by the 20-member Budman-Levy orchestra, Day goes for a film noir vibe on his new album, the Los Angeles song cycle Angel City (spencerday.com). It’s a good fit for Day, who co-wrote all of the songs, including standouts such as the title tune, “The California Yes,” “Ghost of the Chateau Marmont,” “I Wish I Didn’t Care,” and “Somewhere There’s a City.”
If Spencer Day is our gay Michael Bublé, out singer/songwriter Mike Maimone is our Tom Waits. The High Hat Club (mikemaimone.com) is a five-song EP, that, like most good EPs, leaves us wanting more. Maimone’s piano-playing is mind-blowing, his vocals exude enough warmth to start a blaze, and his wordplay, especially on “Hey Now” and “Clear Black Night,” is as admirable as it is unforgettable. “Through the Changes” is a full-fledged heartstring-tugger. If the bear crowd doesn’t gobble Maimone up with a spoon, then we are all doomed.
But wait, there’s more! Prolific, Grammy-nominated gay jazz pianist Fred Hersch has released Fred Hersch Trio `97 @ The Village Vanguard (fredhersch.com), featuring two originals and six covers performed by Hersch, Drew Gress (on bass) and Tom Rainey (on drums).
“Forty-four years old, parenting a 12-year-old daughter, in a committed partnership, and feeling more myself lately,” licensed therapist and singer/songwriter Jeremy Dion delivers the six-song EP More Lately (jeremydion.com) featuring the excellent anti-Trump track “Alternative Facts.”
A variety of musical genres, including dance (in songs such as “Lost in Light,” “Down the Garden Path,” and “Trippin’ on a High Horse”), are repre-sented on gay Canadian musician CurtisNewart’s Rock the Chandeliers (Immaculate).
This article appears in the March 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.