ALBUM REVIEW: Canyons, Larkin Grimm, Rumer, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour and Chris Willis

These January releases go from blah to bliss while an overlooked 2011 album kicks ass

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Canyons
Keep Your Dreams
Modular Recordings

Although they don’t want to be labeled as dance/electronica, electronica act Canyons provides multitudes of synth and drum machines in all 11 tracks of their latest album. Dreams starts off with a hip bass line and groovy beat in “Under a Blue Sky,” but that interesting minute is quickly put to rest with the inclusion of saxophone. Initially, it registers as fascinating, but quickly becomes abrasive, that they prove the point that saxes and electronica do not blend well and the song devolves into a melange of animal sounds, ethereal vocals and pretty much drivel.

The Aussie band fares better in “My Rescue,” a offering more focus with stronger beat with vocals. Then it regresses into the pedestrian “See Blind Through.” The album has major ups and downs that  aren’t worth the ride with the second half  merely a haze of irregular beats. Strangely, 11 songs are listed, but 10 show up. However, I doubt the missing song could have made the album anything better.

One and half stars (out of five).

—  Rich Lopez

RICH’S MIXTAPE: POST-PRIDE EDITION

We appreciated the Pride theme “It Only Gets Better,” but it also sounded a little like a self-help mantra. Now that Pride is over, we’re looking to keep our groove going with a little fun. These tunes should turn a frown upside-down.

“I Could Be Happy” — Altered Images: Of course you can, especially after this 1981 New Wave hit by Scottish post-punkers fill your brain with its bouncy, joyful sound.
“Dreams” — The Cranberries: Bubbling with optimism, it is pretty hard not to think your dreams will come true after this alt-pop classic plays.

“A Little Less Conversation” — Elvis Presley: The King isn’t on a self-help kick here, but who could resist this kind of beat? For those who can, you need far more than this mixtape.

“Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do” — Robyn: This popster takes a different approach to self-empowerment, but it works. Listing everything that bugs her, she sounds just like us. Sometimes we just need to vent and curse.

“Firework” — Katy Perry: Don’t deny it: You get a rush when Perry builds to her chorus and then the beat drops.

“Louder (Put Your Hands Up)” — Chris Willis, pictured: While we keep waiting for his full- length debut, the out singer delivers the ultimate uplift anthem, and it’s a good dance tune, too.

“I’ll Take You There” — The Staple Sisters: There are few lyrics in this song, but all we need to know is I know a place / Ain’t nobody cryin’ / Ain’t nobody worried. Let’s go.

“Roam’” – The B-52’s: Sometimes the B’s are out there, but they make the world a better place here. Who figured permission from the band to roam around the world would feel so good?

“Hell With You” – …Silenze: These queer-centric metalheads don’t take crap. Declaring I’m someone unlike you, the band forgets the fuzzy-wuzzies and takes a stand.

“Move any Mountain” – The Shamen: Though their hit “Ebenezer Goode” came off rather dark, the rave house band gets all Dr. Phil with this addictive and encouraging dance track.

“I’m Sorry Baby, But You Can’t Stand in my Light Anymore” – Bob Mould: Sometimes it’s the one you’re with that’s bringing you down. Kick ’em to the curb the way this queer indie rocker says: Hate to leave you standing in the corner on your own. Fact is, sometimes you have to.

“Express Yourself” – Madonna: You had to see this coming. Truer words have never been sung than Don’t go for second best, baby. Even if it is a song about relationships, it’s always said so much more.

—R.L.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Out singer Chris Willis steps away from gospel and gets all Usher-like in new video

I can’t say there’s much new behind Chris Willis‘ newest single “Louder.” OK, yes, it’s Usher, it’s Ne-yo, it’s Trey Songz, it’s — well — derivative. Having said that, that’s hardly a bad thing in this case. Being out, Willis is one of the few gay black singers that could make waves in mainstream music. He’s been primed by uber-producer David Guetta with nice results and was featured in Guetta’s One Love album last year singing “Gettin’ Over”and “Sound of Letting Go,” two of the standout songs from the CD. The two have collaborated many times over the past decade and it’s put Willis in a far different light than his gospel roots.

And now, Willis is stepping into his own with his debut single and video which precedes his announced full-length album, Inside Voice. The video is heavily edited and not all that gay, but I think Willis is a start for putting an LGBT face on pop and R&B dance music from the get-go without the baggage of going back in the closet just to have a successful career. Let’s see how it plays out.

Check out his video below. Besides, the song should  bring you up out of the funk from last night’s election results.

—  Rich Lopez