Although 2009 saw releases of some substantial music across the board, gay audiences ended up as winners. Pop and dance music both offered outstanding little masterpieces reminding us that neither genre can be counted out just yet. Canada showed that gay indie rockers can bring it as good as anyone. And one particular lady came with a follow-up that blew her disco stick debut away.
It was tough to narrow down, but these following kept finding their way back to stand out as my best of 2009.
1. Florence and the Machine, Lungs. This solid debut had the markings of a perfect album. Florence Welch offered 13 songs of feminine energy that declared she be given the right to perform brilliant Brit rock alongside so many male indie music darlings. Better yet, 46 minutes later, the album remained fresh and filled with musical optimism.
2. The Hidden Cameras, Origin: Orphan. Joel Gibb’s Canadian collective straddles the line of folk and trippy pop with churchy aspects, but the poetic delivery is a quirky and highly enjoyable listen. Find any song this year more charming than "In the NA."
3. N’Dambi, Pink Elephant. This Dallas singer dissected her neo-soul into almost confessional territory. Her thick, sultry singing layered over smart grooves was the equivalent of a post-sex cigarette. This album needed to be inhaled deeply and enjoyed slowly.
4. Gentleman Reg, Jet Black. Eleven songs of folkish gay emo may sound like a drag, but Reg injected a happiness here that defied his sometimes-bleak outlook. Simple and straightforward, he wrote Black with friendlier sensibilities without dumbing down to common-denominator tastes. He even pulls off a pseudo-dance number with the ultra-cool "We’re in a Thunderstorm."
5. The Cliks, Dirty King. This rock trio’s surprising strength was its many ballads on this tragically overlooked album. Lucas Silveira sang with the emotional yearning of a Lasse Halstrom movie against the backdrop of an Aerosmith love song. It’s an unlikely match but offered delicious morsels of ear candy.
6. Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster. Gaga continued to throw convention aside with songs that bucked traditional pop musings of many other 20something blondes. She asserted herself as a woman owning her allure as well as her weirdness. Despite great dance tunes, her slow number "Speechless" was a jaw-dropping lyrical masterpiece.
7. Various artists, (500) Days of Summer soundtrack. This compilation played like the perfect mixtape — it’s romantic, quirky, sexy and followed the No. 1 mixtape rule: good flow. Regina Spektor, The Temper Trap and The Smiths covered the entire range of young love travails. But Hall & Oates totally threw me off.
8. Madonna, "Celebration" (the song, not the album). I’m cheating a bit here because I had issues with Madonna’s greatest hits’ glaring omissions. Her return to a simpler dance tune took us back to early Madge who used to offer such without complication. She’d been straying into desperate WTF territory. Here, she finally gave us a confident successor to her ultimate dance hit, "Into the Groove" while retaining a sense of dignity.
9. Little Black Dress, Snow in June. Dallas band Little Black Dress snuck into 2009 with this lush, dreamy CD. Recalling the days of Mazzy Star and The Sundays, local musicians Toby Pipes and Nolan Thies bring beautiful sway to the North Texas music landscape. The airy guitars, sleepy beats and wispy vocals may downshift the tempo, but the duo makes it’s hard to ignore with clever melodies and musical maturity.
10. David Guetta, One Love. DJ albums are usually masturbatory efforts that only sound good to the DJ. But Guetta pulled together a remarkably accessible CD of ready-made hits that let the singers shine over his producing and remixing abilities. Kelly Rowland, Akon and will.i.am aren’t suffocated by over production and remix tricks. Instead, they added layers of talent to songs that already sound good.
Top queer CD releases of 2009
Many of the year’s best music had gay appeal, but some queer artists dropped CDs that flew under the radar. If you didn’t give these a try in 2009, seek them out in 2010.
Jason Ricci and New Blood, Done with the Devil. Ricci, pictured, serves up gay blues the old school way.
OTEP, Smash the Control Machine. Lesbian lead singer does scary devil voice.
Drew Mason, The Paradigm Shift. White boy from Houston debuts with Nas level hip-hop. Good stuff.
Halford, Winter Songs. Holiday music by a gay metal icon. And it kinda works.
Jay Brannan, In Living Cover. Though petulant and temperamental, his semi-obscure covers are handled with delicate maturity.
Brandi Carlile, Give Up the Ghost. She’s easily Melissa Etheridge’s successor.
Michael Feinstein and Cheyenne Jackson, The Power of Two. These American standards surprisingly play out with sweet romance.
Colton Ford, Under the Covers. Pop covers don’t shed ex-porn star image but it’s a valiant effort.
Jeffree Star, Beauty Killer. A self-appointed legend, angry dance rock will grab your attention.
Tegan and Sara, Sainthood. After 10 years, they still play with bubbly rocker chick charm.
— Rich Lopez
Front row seat: 2009’s best concerts
Be it an arena or a club, concerts from the year had lots to offer LGBT music fans. These shows stand out as part of the variety North Texas featured.
1. Gentleman Reg (Hailey’s, pictured). He made understated emo-pop a rousing affair. Iit felt like we had just gotten bitchslapped by one of the best live shows ever. And we wanted more.
2. Britney Spears (American Airlines Center). Bringing in Brit during Pride weekend was the equivalent of musical mecca for the gays.
3. Ray Boltz and Janis Ian (Rose Room). Finally someone got the memo that this venue is a snazzy spot for live music. These two played to ample crowds each of their nights onstage.
4. Rufus Wainwright (Bass Hall). This scaled down show let Rufus exude talent without distraction. And his voice was heaven in the hall.
5. Colton Ford (Dallas Eagle). Four songs may not be a concert, but Ford commanded a packed house at the club Halloween night.
— Rich Lopez
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 01, 2010.