By Gregg Shapiro
Gay singer/songwriter (and educator and writer) Brady Earnhart doesn’t disappoint on his long-awaited fourth album Last Time I Promise (City Salvage). There are few out musicians who are as consistently strong and inspiring as Earnhart. This is particularly true since Earnhart was recording Last Time I Promise while recovering from a debilitating health issue. Back to good health and better than ever, Earnhart gives us some of his most accessible work here, including the electric “Do You Believe” (complete with “dog-bark ringtone”) and the country comfort of “Handsome and Kind.” Intimate moments, including “Delray,” “You Made Light,” “Song for Bob,” and “Doctor’s Son,” are also standouts. Instrumentals such as the piano-only centerpiece “Crim Dell” and “Valley Road,” as well as the clever lyric play of “Baby Bear’s Porridge,” are welcome additions to Earnhart’s astonishing canon.
Never one to mince words, queer electro goddess Peaches (who performs at Numbers on November 4) is at her most sexually explicit on Rub (I U She Me). Bracketed by collaborations with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon on “Close Up” and fellow Canadian diva Feist on “I Mean Something,” the nine songs in between unflinchingly cover a range of suggestive subjects: “Rub” features “circle-jerk girls who spray,” and “Dick in the Air” has Peaches advocating “switching positions/no inhibitions.” “Pickles” will give you the “urge/to move like surge” and Peaches “keeps it nasty” on “Vaginoplasty,” while “Light in Places” is sure to be club bound.
As described by lead vocalist Kneepad Nikki (aka Mike Hymson), the self-titled debut disc by Totally F–king Gay on Third Input Records is intended to be “an old-school John Waters movie in sonic form.” The 10 “homoerotic hymns” on the disc are delivered in Nikki’s spoken/sung style, which is slightly reminiscent of Fred Schneider of the B52s. It gets a little monotonous, but standouts such as “Husband and Husband,” “Let’s Buy a Man Purse at the Mall,” and “Marathon Gay Sex for Manly Men,” make it worthwhile.
Queer all-female quartet Antigone Rising rises again with the five-song EP Whiskey & Wine: Vol. II (antigonerising.com). Continuing the Dixie diva style of more recent albums and EPs, the heavenly harmonies of “I See You,” the banjo (and Allman Brothers reference) on “Weed and Wine,” and the country pop of “Last Time” are proof that Antigone Rising has earned a place in the modern Nashville scene.
On his 10th solo album to date, the aptly named Solo (Palmetto), gay pianist and composer Fred Hersch performs two original numbers and covers five classic tunes from the contemporary songbook. Hersch begins with a Brazilian flair by performing a medley of Antonio Jobim’s “Olha Maria/O Grande Amor.” Also notable are his interpretations of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and Juan Tizol’s “Caravan.” Hersch’s own “Whirl,” for ballerina Suzanne Farrell (which he previously recorded with his trio on an album of the same name) is also outstanding.
Self-taught out musician Gemayel presents her brand of “Lebanese gypsy rock” on her scorching new eponymous disc. A majority of the songs rock hard and loud, including “Lust for Pain” (what else would you expect from a song with that title?). You can hear some Ani DiFranco influence in the spoken/sung conveyance of “Sometimes.” “Speak Up” and “Salvation” are two of the more approachable songs on the album, while Gemayel’s reading of Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You” is truly inspired.
Emerging from the same early-’80s college rock scene as out musician Bob Mould’s Hüsker Dü, gay singer/songwriter Tommy Keene continues to make infectious and edgy jangle pop on Laugh in the Dark (Second Motion). The 10 brand-new songs have all the familiar characteristics of Keene’s best work, including rocking guitars and solid song-craft. Opener “Out of My Mind” rocks with a contemporary vengeance while psychedelic closer “All Gone Away” recalls another time. In between, Keene illuminates his pop side on “All the Lights Are Alive” and “I Want It to Be Over Now,” but takes a gentler approach on “Go Back Home.”
Greg Holden isn’t gay—not by any stretch of the imagination. However, that didn’t prevent the hot and tatted UK singer/songwriter from writing one of the best gay songs of the year. “Boys in the Street,” a first-person tune about a gay son’s complex relationship with his homophobic father, is a top-notch tearjerker and an all-too-familiar tale for many young gay men. But there is redemption to be found in the song, and Holden delivers it like a pro. The remainder of Chase the Sun (WB), Holden’s third full-length album, includes the rousing Mumford & Sons-style sing-alongs “Give It Away” and “Free Again,” the cloudy piano/vocal “Go Chase the Sun,” the acoustic beauty of “I Won’t Forget,” and the country duet “The Next Life,” featuring lesbian singer/songwriter Garrison Starr. When all is said and done, “Boys in the Street” qualifies Holden as one of our greatest new allies. Plus he has gay hair!
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.