Starvoice • 09.16.11

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Twiggy turns 62 on Monday. Known mostly for her mod, androgynous look of the ’60s, the style icon was one of fashion’s first supermodels. She returned to fashion somewhat as a judge on America’s Next Top Model, but left in 2007. Also a singer, she is working on a new album of ballad covers due in November.

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THIS WEEK

Mars entering Leo inflates energy and egos, and trine to Uranus in Aries, will lead to unexpected results. Stubborn assertion will lead to wacky disasters. Be bold, but adaptive and humble for best results.

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VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Self-consciousness leads you to fashion disasters. Play with a new look where nobody except a trusted friend can to see it, just so you can be satisfied that it is indeed wrong for you.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Domestic victories make you cocky.  Better to offer an olive branch and build reconciliation. Don’t dread the cake with all those candles. Focus on accomplishments and goals.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Count on your friends to help you get ahead. Keep your eyes open to colleagues who might double-cross you. Don’t worry: A rude surprise can prove a blessing in disguise.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
Teamwork gets anything accomplished, so be attentive to those who can make or break your efforts. They’re inclined to support you, but they want credit and generally deserve it.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Focus on your career and getting ahead. You can focus on your goals with little interference. The boss is about to take notice and is likely to be very supportive. Just let your work speak for itself.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Connect with older, well-educated people. You can learn a lot and get a clearer idea of your direction in life. You can’t help but say the wrong thing to your partner, but you’ll be fine.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Even sweet, affable chatter can get annoying. Staying between the extremes is your biggest challenge. Lean to the quiet side. Letting them wonder will arouse more interest in you.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
You want to have fun, but work demands time and energy. Getting boisterous upsets things and exposes resentments. It doesn’t matter if they’re jealous. Focus your energies productively.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Be as productive as possible while your discipline and drive are especially sharp. Worries about the future are distractions. Just stay the course; keep putting one foot in front of the other.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
The coming social season puts you in greater demand. Fix up your home now to be ready for company then. Friends’ one-upmanship will throw you off your game. Ignore it.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Social opportunities abound. You’re happier at home with your dearest and nearest, and some of your favorite recipes, but get out and develop connections. They’ll serve you well.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Your state of mind changes more than your finances, but you can relax. Your energy is cranking up and leads you into interesting adventures. Look for new ideas, not arguments!

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

What’s Brewing: Lance Lundsten, State of the Union, Lady Bunny’s ‘Ballad of Sarah Palin’

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Gay Minnesota teen Lance Lundsten may very well have taken his own life after all. The medical examiner in the case said Wednesday that Lundsten did not die from an enlarged heart as his father claims. Instead, a finding that Lundsten had an enlarged heart was secondary to his unknown cause of his death. Lundsten has been widely reported to have committed suicide in response to anti-gay bullying at school. However, his official cause of death won’t be known until toxicology results are complete, which could take several weeks.

2. LGBT advocates are calling for President Barack Obama to come out in support of marriage equality in Tuesday’s State of the Union address: “We have wanted him to lead on this issue. He has talked about … experiencing some evolution, and we’d like to say, ‘Evolve now!’”

3. Lady Bunny releases “The Ballad of Sarah Palin.” (video above)

—  John Wright

LISTEN: Dallas singer Brandon Hilton shows his ‘serious side’ with new single ‘Adrenaline’

Brandon Hilton seems to be on a roll. Just a few weeks ago, I blogged about his new video. Now, the Dallas singer is releasing his new single, “Adrenaline,” from his upcoming album Nocturnal. Not too bad from a self-made ce-web-rity. According to his e-mail sent out last night, this album will show a whole new side to Hilton. “Adrenaline” is Hilton’s first ballad which he figures will show his more artistic side.

“People were complaining because all I usually create is fun dance music, well my new album isn’t like that, I’m showing my serious side as a serious artist,” his e-mail states.

Personally, I’m not really sure an “artist” would bow to pressures of people complaining. Hey Hilton, if you don’t wanna do ballads, don’t. “Adrenaline” is a decent effort with just enough going right and wrong to balance it out. Overall, the tune is simple but I have to say, it hooked me. I mean, it’s auto-tuned to hell and a little cliche in the lyrics department, but it works well enough.

And we’re all in agreement here that Hilton provided one of the best lines ever in his press release. According to the e-mail, when he was asked about Nocturnal, he said — get ready for it — “this is all I will say, this album is about my death as an Internet Celebrity, and my birth as an Artist!”

So priceless.

Listen to “Adrenaline” here

—  Rich Lopez

Tickling ivories

Eric Himan trades his guitar for a piano to revisit his musical catalog

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

3 out of 5 stars
OUT WITH THE OLD
Eric Himan
Thumbcrown

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Proof that Eric Himan has an astounding amount of determination is found in his new CD, Out with the Old. Himan challenged himself to learn the piano and then reinterpreted some of his own tunes into an altogether different sound on this collection of 12 songs — 11 covers of his own stuff and one new track. The results are a valiant effort that, even with some lulls, comes out on top.

He recorded the album live, though not in front of an audience. Instead, these takes were captured at his piano instructor’s home. This approach works nicely and conveys a strange intimacy, though sometimes he would have benefited from adjusted levels of his voice and piano.

Opening with “Until the Road Unwinds,” Himan gives no hint that he’s a piano novice. He must have magic hands because his work here is sublime. The ballad starts off the CD slowly, but opens up the mind and ear quickly to his new sound. The song itself holds up well in this interpretation, but immediately we hear that while Himan can play nicely, he doesn’t show off. The CD is a bold move, but Himan knows he isn’t Billy Joel — yet. Although if that’s the direction he’s headed it, it’s not a bad one.

Eric Himan
TOTALLY VERSATILE | Tulsa-based Eric Himan makes a bold move by stepping away from the guitar to show off his new piano skills in ‘Out with the Old.’

Then “White Horse” happens. Despite showing shades of Jerry Lee Lewis, Himan misses here, and badly. The lyrics feel rushed as if he’s squeezing in words to fit the rhythm. On its own, the song is the equivalent of ill-fitting shoes, losing the rockabilly fun from its original form. Himan needs to master the pace between the piano and his faster songs.

But on his slower tunes and ballads, the music shines. “Clyde” plays with tenderness and he works the keys in both complex and moody fashions. Then we start hearing him stretching out his vocal runs as if the new translation is setting him free. He’s not only putting his piano playing to the test, but his voice as well.

This continues on “Kinda Hard.” He can handle the instrument for these steadier tunes but his earnestness is etched into the song. When he sings the line, I mean nothing to you, nothing sounded more painful. “One Less Person” and “One Night Stand” fare the same beautiful fate with share the right delicacy and proper musical approach. You could say this album is a bit narcissistic if he just wants to show off what he’s learned, but if it’s gonna sound like this all the time, then by all means, show off.

The original track “Gonna Make it Work,” somehow misses all the marks. Himan starts intently but he begins to ramble. The song builds to an uneven chorus. Himan has a uniquely high-pitched voice but he needed to downshift registers here — either that or slow the song down.

It’s unfortunate to end on a sloppy note, because up to this point, the albums play with nice cohesion regardless of its couple of stumbles. But props to Himan for trying something new — at the very least, it keeps him interesting, and listeners interested.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

A velvety smooth Suede

Out jazz singer Suede combines standards, trumpet and comedy for Fort Worth show

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

SUEDE IN SILVER  |  The queer singer’s tour, which comes to Fort Worth Nov. 6, celebrates 25 years as well as her new CD, ‘Dangerous Mood.’
SUEDE IN SILVER | The queer singer’s tour, which comes to Fort Worth Nov. 6, celebrates 25 years as well as her new CD, ‘Dangerous Mood.’

SUEDE
With Julie Bonk.
Youth Orchestra Hall,  4401 Trail Lake Drive, Fort Worth.
Nov. 6. 8 p.m. $20–$40.
OpenDoorProductionsTx.com.

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When jazz singer Suede hits the stage in Fort Worth next weekend, the audience will be in for a show where just about anything can happen. After all, what other lesbian do you know that can quickly shift from singing a beautiful ballad, to crooning a sassy jazz number to breaking out with a raucous trumpet solo? (Yes, trumpet.) Throw in some comedy and you get a pretty good idea of what this singular sensation is all about.

Simply put, Suede delivers a show as unique as her name.

“Suede is actually my middle name. It found me when I was in third grade. My last name is one of those that starts with a small ‘de’ and the rest of it is one of those where you want to cry out, ‘May I buy a vowel please?’” she laughs. “I haven’t used my last name in forever. My given first name is Suzanne, which got shortened to Sue. It got too close to the small ‘de’ at the beginning of my last name on a reading paper in third grade and my teacher started calling me Suede and I’ve been going by that ever since.”

She even had the foresight to copyright it, which came in handy in the early ’90s when Sony tried to bring a band over from England called Suede.

“We asked them nicely to stop using my trademarked name, but they sort of looked at me like, ‘What is she really going to do? We’re Sony Corporation,’” she says deepening her voice into a threatening tone. “We ended up suing them and won the case, but it took two years. So yes, there’s a great deal of integrity and importance with this little name of mine.”

After nearly 30 years in show business, she has had the good fortune to make music a full-time career — “No waiting tables, no giving guitar lessons. Just touring and performing,” she says. “It’s such a cliché but I absolutely owe it to my fans. They keep showing up and bringing new people and I’m just astounded by their loyalty.”

Suede started her own record label 26 years ago and released her latest of four solo albums, Dangerous Mood, to celebrate her 25th anniversary of performing professionally.

“Since I was a little kid, I had a dream of performing with a big band and I just went for it. It was an insane project. I recorded it in Tony Bennett’s studio and it was just amazing,” she says.

Many of those songs will be in her show. And just because she’s gay, don’t expect it to be a totally queer affair.

“I have a mainstream jazz following, but I’ve also been an out lesbian performer since the beginning of my career. That was a choice of mine long before it became a good boost for a career like those coming out late in the game today. Having done this for so long, it absolutely was not safe, let alone a good career move, when I made that choice. It was kind of interesting because that certainly had an impact with me trying to get mainstream gigs.”

Ironically, it was the gay community that stereotyped her.

“They’d say, ‘Oh she’s a lesbian folk singer and we know what that means.’ And that’s just not true. I’m a popular jazz singer — always have been. So I really didn’t fit any place, but my fans kept showing up and none of them cared about categorization.”

The formula of jazz meets pop meets big, bawdy trumpet solos, however strange it may sound, has worked and she’s so confident people will love it, she’s got a money-back guarantee.

“I’ll even go so far as to say, take the chance. No questions asked, if you want your money back at the end of it, I’ll personally give it back. I really think you’ll love it because it’s just a whole lot of fun,” she says with a laugh.

And I tend to think she’s telling the truth.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Blood Sea Dream:’ Grand Lake runs (sort of) deep

On Grand Lake’s MySpace page, the band describes its music genre as “melodramatic.” With the languid, dreamy sound of the first track on Blood Sea Dream, it’s anything but. “It Takes A Horse To Light a House” is melodramatic in its title, but acts like a lush welcoming mat into what turns out to be a potentially inspiring album — if you could figure out where it was going.

There are a lot of things right about Blood. The 12 tracks by gay founder Caleb Nichols and company range from ethereal to distorted numbers with a whole lot going on in between. The quartet delivers a beautiful ballad with “Our Divorce”  that is worthy of repeat listens. Nichols then offers insight to his demons with “My Father is a Forest Full of Trees,” which details his hopes to confront his inmate dad. Perhaps it is aural voyeurism, but also striking to hear those words out loud.

But then Grand Lake derails into “WTF” territory. The band is easily in the avant rock vein, but when it jars the listener out of one experience and juts them into the opposite throughout the album, it drops any emotional attachment the listener could (and should) have.

After the beautiful opener, which sets a quieter tone, second track “Louise (I Live In a Fantasy)” ventures into alt-rock. For the most part, the shift was acceptable … until it devolves into Nichols shouting and repeating his lyrics, beating my ears into submission.

“Oedipus Hex (Hwy 1 North)” plays with a slightly higher tempo and stronger pop flavor, but then the weird  “Threnody For FA Mesmer” follows which is basically the musical equivalent of the prolonged Emergency Broadcast System sound.

In the final track, “Why Do You Lie To Me (Faggot Blues),” begins slowly like “Horse,” but builds into a screeching angry dirge. Nichols sings about a relationship declaring I’ll be true to you / If you are true to me following it up with the title question, although I’m never sure what the parenthetical title means — and Grand Lake likes them some parentheses!

These bumps start to outnumber the better parts of the album. Nichols and Grand Lake give texture to the realm of gay-created music, but right now, it’s still rough.

— Rich Lopez

Two and a half stars.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens