by Gregg Shapiro
We may not be able to legally marry in most states, but we can still start our own families. For some that includes children, biological or adopted. Warm Sun (The Next Family) by Susan Howard glowingly rejoices in that fact with a set of songs for all kinds of families, including those with same-sex parents. “Hanging Out with My Moms” is a delightful celebration of the fun and fabulous things you can do with two mommies. “Daddy Papa and Me” has a similarly festive spirit, while “I’m Adopting a Brother” adds a slightly more serious, although no less joyful tone to the proceedings.
Mal Blum made a splash on Logo’s “Click List” with the cuddly video for her “Ode to Ukulele” track. Her latest EP, For Making Art (malblum.com), is another acoustically driven collection of songs, albeit with a darker perspective. “Baltimore” and “New Year’s Eve,” for instance, establish a somewhat less than upbeat mood. The title track, with its typewriter percussion, is a little more gleeful and is a unique expression of gratitude. Two live tracks, including an Old Crow Medicine Show cover, and the heartbreaking “I Could Tell You” round out the disc.
Clear across the spectrum, Otep, the namesake of the metal band, declares, “I’m one of the/freaks, the faggots,/the geeks, the savages,/rogues, rebels, dissident devils,/artists, martyrs, infidels . . .” on “Rise Rebel Resist,” the opening track of the visceral Smash the Control Machine (Victory) album. The politically oriented title track successfully gets its point across with a minimum of damage. Otep spits the rhymes on “Run for Cover” like a slam poet, while “Ur a Wmn Now” is an unexpectedly effective ballad.
Traversing the spectrum again, we arrive at the The Mystery of Life (karensegal.com) by Karen Segal Trio. Jazz guitarist Segal does her influences, including Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny, and John McLaughlin, proud, twisting and bending the sounds from her guitar into new and compelling shapes. Standout cuts include “After the Storm,” “Lilah Rose,” “Epiphany (Aha!),” “I Believe,” and the luminescent “Moonrise.”
Worth the wait, the self-titled debut disc by The Powwows, led by Lauretta Tagli, is a good old-fashioned pop/rock record at a time when those are in short supply. The Powwows rock like nobody’s business on “All I See,” “Atlanta,” and “Gimme.” But Tagli and company are not afraid to flash their mellower side on songs such as “My Whole Life,” “Hey,” “Everything’s Alright,” and “How Much More.”
The trio known as Girlyman (Doris Muramatsu, Ty Greenstein, and Nate Borofsky) is virtually unstoppable. A popular live act, Girlyman has managed to make their trademark harmonies transfer easily to their studio recordings, and their latest release, Everything’s Easy (girlyman.com), is another fine example of their individual and collective talents. Taking a personal turn on tracks including the title tune and “Easy Bake Ovens,” “Could Have Guessed,” “Home Song,” the jaunty “My Eyes Get Misty,” “Somewhere Different Now,” and the geographical “True Enough,” Girlyman continues its development as one of the most original and captivating queer bands.
From trios to duos, Sugarbeach (Marlee Walchuk and Nathalie Callender) gets listeners up and dancing on the first track of their Not Deserted (sugarbeachmusic.com) album. “Mama I Love Her” is a dance track with a powerful queer message, and “Living Out Proud” has dance anthem written all over it. Of course, there’s more to Sugarbeach than dance beats, as you can hear on “Run with Me,” “If I’d Known,” and “Nathalie.”
Nicole Reynolds and Ann Reed represent the current state of folk music, from opposite ends of the field. On her fourth album, A Fine Set of Fools (nicolereynoldsmusic.com), Pittsburgh native Reynolds sets things off with the devastatingly powerful coming-of-age tune “Like the Ocean.” “Crazy Like You” adds an infectious rhythm to the album, and “Earthworms” is a delightful number about gender and queerness. The timeless “Joseph Brown” sounds like it could have been yesterday or more than 100 years ago, and “For Christmas” manages to be both thought-provoking and humorous.
Minnesota-based Reed’s Where the Earth Is Round (Turtle Cub) contains elements that will be familiar to her devoted followers. Humor, an essential component in her work, is here in abundance on tracks including “Coffee Tasted Better When You Were Here” (composed for the 2008 final broadcast of The Morning Show on Minneapolis Public Radio), “Pink Guitar,” “How Did I?” and “Good Thing I Bounce.” The addition of the First Universalist Unitarian Choir on “We Will” elevates the tune to political hymn status, while “A Song for the End of the Day” sets the comfort of domesticity to music.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine and a past recipient of the annual OutMusic award that recognizes contributions by non-musicians in furthering the work of LGBT performers.