Last week and this week spell “uber-gay” in the music industry. This batch of new releases comes complete with a live set from Indigo Girls, and new work by Scissor Sisters, Cyndi Lauper, Sia and more.
“Staring Down the Brilliant Dream”
Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, I thank you on behalf of my fellow rabid fans of your music. Georgia’s own legendary lesbian duo offers up 31 live tracks on this two-CD live set recorded at live shows from 2006-2009, which is a worthy sequel to 1995’s excellent “1200 Curfews.”
Essential cuts like “Closer to Fine,” “Shame on You,” “Kid Fears,” and “Fill It Up Again” are represented among the recordings, which bring to mind the atmosphere of one of the Girls’ live shows – from quiet and intimate to ferocious and intense.
The result is great for their passionate fans for whom Indigo Girls music is so personal. The collection wraps up with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” featuring Atlanta native Michelle Malone, which totally kicks ass.
Run, don’t walk, to your computer or local music retailer and grab this album today.
Thank God for Scissor Sisters! The band’s third album is a love letter to the dance music of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, replete with modern production wizardry, the talented band members and producer Stuart Price.
Price, known for his work in the booth with Madonna and the Killers (among others), brings a gloss to the dirt and grit fans love so much about the Sisters’ work, as evidenced by the euphoric title track and the epic, sweeping album closer, “Invisible Light.”
The lead single is “Fire with Fire,” the closest thing to a ballad on the album. Frontman Jake Shears forgoes his falsetto for a nuanced, full-voiced performance in a track that is a beautiful union of a fist-pumping anthem and an intimate, tender moment.
Kylie Minogue joins the fun as a background vocalist for the playful “Any Which Way You Can,” featuring a deliciously campy bridge by Ana Matronic. Minogue must have enjoyed her time in the studio with Price because he produced her upcoming album “Aphrodite.”
The only odd moment on the album is “Skin This Cat,” which isn’t bad, but it just sounds off compared to the retro-fabulousness of the other tracks.
“Night Work” is a strong, welcome return for one of the most unusual bands in music today. Let’s hope they don’t make us wait four more years for their next album.
iTunes features a deluxe version with the Digital Dog Radio Edit of “Fire With Fire,” Siriusmo Remix of “Invisible Light,” and the music video for “Fire With Fire.”
“We Are Born”
Born Kate Isobelle Furler, the Australian pop singer and gay icon in the making releases her most pop-oriented and accessible album to date. The lead single, “Clap Your Hands,” shows off Sia’s skill at crafting a catchy song to move your feet and lodge itself firmly in your brain.
Producer Greg Kursten wraps Sia’s full-bodied vocals in full instrumentation, glosses up the pop high points (“Stop Trying,” “You’ve Changed, “Bring Night”) and injects the proper amount of intimacy in the tender moments (“I’m In Here,” a cover of Madonna’s “Oh Father,” “Be Good to Me”).
“We Are Born” is a worthy, brighter companion for Scissor Sisters’ “Night Work,” but just as delicious.
Amazon.com features an exclusive track “Hold Me Down” while iTunes includes a “making of” documentary.
Lauper is a gifted pop culture icon and a staunch ally for LGBT rights. She is the kind of person and artist that I would like to say can do no wrong. Unfortunately, that would be inaccurate due to her taste in concept albums. As a follow-up to 2008’s successful dance album “Bring Ya to the Brink,” Lauper dips into the blues sounds of Memphis with inconsistent results.
The superb “Romance in the Dark,” the slightly over-done “Don’t Cry No More, and the plaintive but beautiful “Down So Low” find Lauper and her band holding their own on blues classics, and some of the genre’s biggest names – Charlie Musselwhite, Allen Toussaint, B. B. King, Jonny Lang, Kenny Brown, and Ann Peebles – lend their talent.
But not all of the collaborations work. Musselwhite’s robust (and fantastic) harmonica playing overpowers Lauper’s vocals on “Just Your Fool” and “Down Don’t Bother Me,” while “Crossroads” with Lang wraps the album up on a sour note.
“Shattered Dreams” is more appealing, and Toussaint displays his supreme mastery of the ivorys while Lauper sings the blues. (Sorry I couldn’t resist.) “Early in the Mornin’” features King and Toussaint, and Lauper’s warbling works with the mood of the track. Brown and Peebles join Lauper on “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.”
After 2003’s dreadful “At Last,” you would think that someone in Lauper’s camp would advise in favor of a more traditional dance or pop album, which would likely lead to more commercial and critical success. That said, Lauper always stays true to her artistic vision, which is at least one of the reasons we love her so much.
Jaron and the Long Road to Love
“Getting Dressed in the Dark”
One of Tucker’s favorite and most handsome sons, Jaron Lowenstein, is back after a ride on the pop charts with his identical twin brother Evan 10 years ago (“Crazy for This Girl” was the biggest hit for Evan and Jaron).
This timefan support for lead single “Pray for You” and opening his own record label have him and his new band going the country route. Lowenstein’s vocals are clear and well-suited to the genre, and his largely autobiographical songs tell a good story, just like good country music should.
“Getting Dressed” is a solid debut, and Lowenstein is a believable and strong songwriter, so check this album out. And did I mention that he’s hot?
The album might be a fun marriage of soul and pop, but the songs are light on substance. Lead single “Beauty in the World” is gorgeous with its lilting beats and positive lyrics, but it does contain the inane line “Shake your booty boys and girls,” so that downgrades the credibility a bit.
Second single “Lately” is a great example of the soul-flavored pop that abounds on the album. And check out these extras: Masterbeat.com features some great remixes of “Beauty in the World” and “Lately.”
“Can’t Be Tamed”
OK, so I’m not a fan of Cyrus (but play “Party in the USA,” and I dance like no one’s watching no matter where I am). So it’s not surprise that I approached this album with a great deal of trepidation.
Cyrus is growing up and asserting herself, like many child stars before her. Plenty can be read into the lyrics of “Liberty Walk,” “Who Owns My Heart,” and the title track: She’s shaking off her Disney-controlled shackles and becoming her own person.
Well, that all may be true, but the music is over-produced pop, and most of the tracks are AutoTuned to death. Since Cyrus doesn’t have the best voice in the business, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The songs are mostly forgettable, and some I’d like to pretend I never heard, like her cover of Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
iTunes features the Rockangels Remix of “Can’t Be Tamed” with Lil Jon contributing a rap. Yeah, it’s as bad as it sounds.
The lead single, “Waves of Change,” is a perfect example of the almost sleepy, blessed-out vibe of all of the tracks. If you’re looking for the next gay dance diva, look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for great vocals paired with lush production, James is your girl.
iTunes features two remix packages for “Waves of Change” and one is all Kaskade remixes, so check those out.
Professional university administrator by day and roving entertainment reporter by night, Buck Cooke moved to Atlanta in 2000. Armed with a passion for pop culture and rabid appetite for music, Buck scours the entertainment landscape for treasures in music, TV and cinema.
Of course, supporting your local gay retailers with your hard-copy music purchases is always encouraged. Remember Brushstrokes and Outwrite when you’re out shopping for CDs, DVDs and other gay sundries. Both places are great about orders for out-of-stock items, too.