By Gregg Shapiro
There are dark days ahead with the Trump/Pence team taking office. Let’s hope that dancing is not high on their list of inalienable rights that they intend to erode.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief that neither Trump nor Pence is smart enough to decipher the name of electro-pop band STRFKR. Otherwise, Trump might add the band to the list of those owing him an apology for imagined insults. With its Norman Rockwell-homage cover art, the band’s fifth full-length album, Being No One, Going Nowhere (Polyvinyl), should do an admirable job of keeping listeners thinking about their collective place in the universe while dancing at the same time. And dance they will—to alluring numbers such as “When I’m with You,” “Satellites,” “Never Ever,” “Something Ain’t Right,” “Open Your Eyes,” and the aptly named, albeit luminescent, “Dark Days.”
Canadian singer/songwriter Martina Sorbara pulled off one of the most fascinating musical reinventions when she switched gears to become lead vocalist (and co-songwriter) for the electro-outfit known as Dragonette. It was a smart move, especially with the steady increase in attention being paid to electronic music. Royal Blues (Dragonette, Inc.), Dragonette’s fourth full-length in under 10 years, packs on persuasive beats and memorable tunes, including “Sweet Poison,” “Lost Teenagers,” “Secret Stash,” “Let the Night Fall,” and the Daft Punky “Darth Vader.” Dragonette even dabbles in retro-pop on “High Five.”
On its third album, Two Vines (Astralwerks), Australian electronic dance duo Empire of the Sun continues to work its musical spell while not straying too far from its trademark style that recalls the Pet Shop Boys (minus the queer energy) in both the audio and visual capacities. “Before” and “High And Low” set the dancing mood, and songs such as the wonderful “Way to Go,” “Friends,” “Ride,” and “First Crush” keep bodies in motion. “ZZZ” and “To Her Door” provide hints at the kinds of diversions also afoot in the pair’s empire.
Of Montreal leader Kevin Barnes has long been coy about his sexuality. Married and divorced, Barnes’ 1999 breakthrough album with Of Montreal was titled The Gay Parade. “Let’s Relate,” the EDM song that opens the new Of Montreal disc Innocence Reaches (Polyvinyl), poses the musical question “How do you identify/how do you ID?” It’s an interesting query in an attention-grabbing tune. “It’s Different for Girls,” not to be confused with the Joe Jackson song of the same name, is another hip-shaker, as is the funky “My Fair Lady,” the spare “Def Pacts,” and the glitchy “Trashed Exes.” Of Montreal also goes retro-glam as all get-out on “Gratuitous Abysses.”
If you fondly remember Since I Left You, the excellent and sample-adelic 2000 debut album by The Avalanches, then you can’t help but be disappointed after waiting almost 16 (!) years for its follow-up, Wildflower (Astralwerks). Opportunities for dancing aren’t as plentiful as they were on these musical collagists’ first album, but you can still get in some rump-shaking on “Subways,” the tasty hip-hop of “The Noisy Eater” (featuring Biz Markie), or “Saturday Night Inside Out.” Ultimately, Wildflower works better as chill-out music or as a game in which listeners can try to identify the obscure samples.
For as long as most people can remember, dance music has had an unbreakable link to the queer community. It was always a bonus when it was an actual LGBT person making the music, as in the case of, say, Sylvester or Bronski Beat. Alpha (darioonline.com), the EP by indie gay performer Dario, includes at least one dance-worthy tune, “Try It!” that could go over well with the suitable remix.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.