SOUND BITES: Reviews of Solange’s EP ‘True,’ ‘Girls Soundtrack’

This week is the Music Issue at the Voice, so to whet your appetite, we offer up some reviews by Chris Azzopardi — of the soundtrack to the hit HBO comedy Girls as well as the impressive follow-up by Beyonce’s sister Solange, True.

Girls Soundtrack, Volume 1 (various artists): Robyn’s sad-but-liberating “Dancing on My Own” already made life infinitely better, but then HBO’s groundbreaking series Girls, which just returned for its second season, did something awesome with it last year: They had the show’s star/creator — Lena Dunham’s every-girl Hannah — shake out her boy blues to the tune. Awesome how? Any Robyn fan can relate to the dorkiness of shadowing the Swede’s moves in their bedroom.

You have to hand it to the music supervisors of Girls: They have an ear for twenty-something “quarter-life crisis” music as much as they understand that girls, too, just wanna have fun. Icona Pop brings the Cyndi Lauper to the party with the unapologetic anthem “I Love It,” as does Santigold’s “Girls” theme — an addictive little joint looped with a merry-go-round of voice samples and a hard bass line.

In the woe-is-me department: Grouplove’s “Everyone’s Gonna Get High” fantastically captures growing up directionless through a surging indie-rock sound, and two tracks in particular — Michael Penn’s “On Your Way” and Harper Simon’s “Wishes and Stars” — are wistful gems. The new song from Tegan and Sara (the girls’ surprising take on The Rolling Stones’ “Fool to Cry,” a bonus track) is a faithful cover that’s characteristically harmonious and also resembles them in their pre-pop days. “Sight of the Sun” from fun. might also be the best song not on their auspicious debut. Now please let the music from Season 2 of Girls be this good. Three and a half stars

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Queer Music News: Jay Brannan, Brandi Carlile, Adam Lambert and more announce releases

This has already been a strong year for queer music releases and it’s only March. But we have a few more to look forward to starting as soon as next week.

Jay Brannan will release his second album of original material after 2009′s In Living Cover album stocked with a fascinating selection of remakes. Rob Me Blind is set to drop March 27, but you can get a major preview of it now. Idolator posted the entire album on its page, sorta like we just did here.

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEW: Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae at Verizon Theatre on Tuesday night

Janelle Monae surfs the crowd. (bighaber.com)

My hope is that there were a few “come to Jesus” moments last night at the Haus of Mars & Monae. With way different approaches to pop music, both still melded into each other like fried batter and beer. And Texans love that, ya know. Plus, they delivered strong showings and raw talents.

I’m sad to have only caught the last half of Monae’s set, but upon my arrival, she was filling the room with her avant-garde music backed by a huge band complete with horns and strings. Monae, in her signature black suit (which I hate) is hard to pin down. She’s erratic and all over the stage like James Brown on crack, but it’s also exciting to watch. Whether she’s laying down on the ground singing or diving into the crowd for major body surfing, it’s hard not to just want to let loose with her. And she has the talents to back it up. Her vocal runs were extraordinary in a piercing, raw manner. She gets scary, gritty and then goes into sonic high notes with ease. Then she turned around to deliver sheer innocence in her cover of The Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back.” She nevertheless delivered strongly on her own hits “Cold War” and “Tightrope” as did her backing band, which generated the richest of sounds seemingly without any electronic help.

Mars was my big surprise. His music hasn’t resonated with me so much, but live, he worked it with beautiful overkill. Mars was a big flirt and he worked his lady fans over with smiles, hip thrusts and high notes. As with Monae, Mars’ band recalled many a soul concert from decades ago and his background visuals were effective. His songs translated much better as the live show with an overflow of energy and even joy. Where Monae recalled James Brown, Mars exuded Marvin Gaye with touches of Michael Jackson. Clearly, he had the retro thing down right. Although he pushed his big hits, when the tempo chilled around “The Lazy Song,” despite the cheers, the show plateaued and the vibe dissipated into the ordinary, but that didn’t change the fact that Mars ruled over his show and his fans.

Of the two, Monae edged out Mars in sheer dynamic. Her rawness in delivery was astonishing where Mars’ polish is showing. The crowd was definitely more into Mars, but gave Monae proper props which gave me hope that she’ll gain a bigger crowd of fans through this tour. Mars and Monae delivered big on Tuesday night, but Monae left a lasting impression.

—  Rich Lopez

Bruno Mars & Janelle Monae tonight at Verizon

The concerts continue with two legends in the making

With eccentricity oozing out of their pores, they also have the talent to back it up, proving that on their Hooligans in Wondaland Tour.

Monae is probably the smaller of the two stars, but her Archandroid album was a brilliant musical high point and her energetic live performance is a spectacle beautiful to behold. Did you see her at the Granada with Of Montreal last November? Killer.

Bruno Mars is an anomaly. He’s doing the hipster throwback version of old soul acts but here’s hoping his songs from his debut Doo-Wops & Hooligans have a stronger impact live. The kid is talented and his multi-instrumentalism should be respected. Expect big things from these two.

DEETS: With Patrick Stump. Verizon Theatre, 1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie. May 17 at 7 p.m. $35. Ticketmaster.com.

—  Rich Lopez