LISTEN: Hunx’s ‘Always Forever’

Throwback garage popsters Hunx and His Punx marked the year with their first full-release Too Young to Fall in Love back in April which I liked enough. This time, Hunx (aka Seth Bogart) strikes out on his own with Hairdresser Blues. He released the preview single “Always Forever” which has some similar tones to the band’s retro-ish sound, but he delivers some added ferocity that makes it his own.

Bogart says that “whenever I write Hunx and His Punx songs, I have to imagine putting on a show to them. People want to see me go crazy, and sometimes it’s hard to sing about something really sad when I’m wasted in a wig and makeup and screaming my head off on stage trying to dazzle people. A lot of this album deals with topics I don’t usually write about. I wasn’t concerned with entertaining people with these songs. I just wanted to get them out of me. Hairdresser Blues doesn’t feel like a Hunx and His Punx album, so I’ve decided to call this just Hunx. It’s the closest thing I’ve done to a solo album. I played all the instruments myself, except for the drums, which were played by Daniel Pitout of Nu Sensae.”

According to Pitchfork’s post Thursday, Blues is set for a Feb. 28 release.

—  Rich Lopez

‘4’-telling

In her latest, Beyonce tries on new hats while relying on old tricks

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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3 out of 5 stars
“4”
Beyonce
Columbia Records

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Fans might be scratching their heads with Beyonce’s new album, 4. Where is the explosive power? What is it with all these ballads? But she might be having the last laugh. Her fourth solo album (duh) might not have as many potential hit singles, but by dabbling with different formulas she delivers a respectable package — or at least a fascinating one.
Beyonce has proved she can churn out major pop and R&B hits that are smart, fun and have a certain sass, but she holds back big time on 4, setting a mellower tone with a collection of slower tempo tunes.

She croons old-school on the opener “1+1,” her foray into deeper soul. The song is elegant and a surprise, but the second track, “I Care,” makes a far stronger impression. The more mid-tempo ballad is restrained in her verses, but goes way lush in her chorus. The build-up to an emotive guitar solo feels a tad Michael Bolton-ish, but pulls back to a definitive groove.

DROP DEAD DIVA | Beyonce channels ‘80s adult contemporary in ‘4,’ but delivers impressive surprises.

Beyonce slyly fuses her R&B vocals over an ambient electronica beat on “I Miss You.” Is it weird this recalls Haddaway’s 1993 song by the same name? She smartly works with the tune to offer the song as a package rather than showing off her voice and results in a lovely moment. Why she has to rhyme I miss you/like every day/wanna be wichu/but you’re away is beyond me. We get it, B — you’re street and glam.

We’re already getting the impression that she’s given the album a top-heavy atmosphere of ballads that might lose listeners, then comes “Best Thing I Never Had,” co-written by Babyface, which doesn’t dispel this. The pace is picked up slightly but the song recalls those overly polished ‘80s “soul” hits found on lite radio stations (echoed later with “Rather Die Young” and “Love on Top”). She’s channeling her Patti Austin-Regina Belle with cheesy background choruses and keyboards. Let’s not discuss the Dianne Warren penned “I Was Here,” which is ready for movie montages and hackneyed trailers.

Sometimes I wondered if Beyonce was trying to get into some serious soul a la Leela James or Sharon Jones, but kept missing the mark with these smoothed-out tunes that don’t lend much to her attempts. With previous ballads like “Halo,” “Listen” or “Irreplaceable,” we could hear her distinct voice — literally and figuratively. Here, she gets lost and although she’s co-written most of her songs, there’s not a unique sense of the diva.

As if she realized that, she pumps up the jam in the final quarter of the 12-song collection. There’s a relief when the beat-heavy “Countdown” hits at track no. 9. Although disjointed, it’s a welcome reprieve from all her emoting. She does far better with her immediate follow-up “End of Time,” by which time she seems obsessed with drumline beats. She’s pulled it since Destiny’s Child with “Breathe” and most recently with “Single Ladies,” but the horns and that Beyonce swagger we’re used to recall the infectious sounds of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”

She weirdly placed “I Was Here” in between the happening upbeat songs and kills the mood. But she closes out with her misfired hit “Run the World (Girls).” Again with the military beats, the song didn’t take the world by storm like she probably hoped, but it puts the energy of the album in overload. I couldn’t stand hearing it at award shows or Oprah’s farewell, but after mellowing out for over half an hour, the song saves the album, ending it with a bang. The girl-power message seems passé but that doesn’t make it less fun.
I applaud Beyonce’s efforts not to deliver the obvious. Face it: We all want another “Crazy in Love,” but instead, she opted to stick to her guns and try something new, even if some of it sounded like it was three decades old. Despite its stumbles and confusing paths, 4 could be the one album we look to as her most daring.   •

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Shunda K debuts new video and set to play SXSW

Now that Shunda K has gone solo, she’s making sure she has a heavy impact on the industry and that looks like she’s starting with her first video from her new solo album The Most Wanted. This is her contribution to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better campaign, but it’s a lot heavier than just giving viewers the message.

Shunda K’s “I’m Da Best” clip is a direct assault on the Westboro Baptist Church (WIKI) and concerns a young boy who is harassed by his peers, faces even more tension at home and how, with the help of his faith and the support of his role model Shunda K, he overcomes these obstacles to stand tall. The video is Shunda K’s contribution to the ongoing “It Gets Better” Project (itgetsbetter.org) started by famed syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage as a place where young people who are lesbian, gay, bi, or trans can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future.

You can catch Shunda K at SXSW in a couple of week at the Art Disaster event at the Beauty Bar March 15. If anything, she’s one of the first real gay acts I’ve found at SXSW this year. I’m sure there are more, but damn if its hard to pinpoint those smaller bands.

—  Rich Lopez

Jay Brannan and Eric Himan perform tonight at The Loft

A double-dose of sexy

Indie rocker Jay Brannan returns to Dallas tonight. Not only might he remind you of our national anthem, Brannan isn’t half-bad when it comes to lyrics. Quirky, original and at times even delightful. With an acoustic set, The Loft is the ideal setting for his music as it was last year. Fellow gay musician Eric Himan joins the bill tonight. He’s not doing too bad himself. He just released his piano-based solo album Out With the Old and hits the pavement pretty often according to his Twitter and Facebook feeds.

These boys are working it for all they can and if past shows say anything, tonight should be an acoustic set of awesome.

DEETS: The Loft, 1135 S. Lamar St.. Doors at 7:30. $17. GilleysMusic.com

—  Rich Lopez

Jonsi jonesing

Sigur Ros frontman says the band endures despite his new solo CD

FANCY JONSI    Sigur Ros’ gay frontman Jonsi takes his solo act on the road. (Photo Eve Vermandel)
FANCY JONSI Sigur Ros’ gay frontman Jonsi takes his solo act on the road. (Photo Eve Vermandel)

JONSI
Verizon Theatre, 1001 NextStage Drive, Grand Prairie.
Oct. 25. 8 p.m. $32–$38.
972-854-505

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As the openly gay frontman of groundbreaking Icelandic band Sigur Rós, Jón Thor Birgisson — who goes by Jónsi (pronounced Yónsi) — provided warmth and an ethereal quality to the band’s already atmospheric and lushly chilly songs. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what Sigur Rós would sound like absent Jónsi.

But on Go, Jónsi’s solo debut disc, we get the chance to hear him without his longtime band. His primary collaborator, openly gay orchestral pop artist

Nico Muhly, assists Jónsi in giving the album a fresh and original style. Alternately wildly rhythmic and sumptuous, Go offers Jónsi room to stretch in new and exciting directions. His fans would be wise to follow — which they can to Verizon Theatre on Monday. Now go!

— Gregg Shapiro

Dallas Voice: Congratulations on the release of your new solo album. How does it feel? Jonsi: It feels really good. I’m really happy with it. I’m really happy how it turned out.

What do you say to people who might be concerned that the release of a solo disc by you might be interpreted as the end of Sigur Rós? I’m going to be touring my solo album this year and I’m going to keep on working in Sigur Rós, writing and recording songs. Hopefully there’s going to be a new Sigur Rós album in 2011.

There is a radiant effervescence to some of the songs on Go, such as “Go Do,” “Animal Arithmetic” and “Around Us.” Is that a reflection of your state of mind at the time? Yeah, I think so — definitely. I wanted to push these songs in any way possible. “Go Do,” for example was written on ukulele, which sounds kind of weird when I listen to it now. There are so many layers on the song, so many instruments. I think I was pushing for more and more stuff to put on the songs. I wanted them to be energetic.

There’s definitely a powerful energy in those songs. “Around Us” and “Grow Till Tall” both contain references to growth and growing “till tall.” What’s the connection between the two songs? I don’t know why “grow” appears in so many songs. I think it appears in three lyrics on the album, actually. It’s probably about somebody growing.

Do you think it could be a reflection of your own personal and creative growth? Yeah, it could be, actually. I’m kind of taking a big step by myself by releasing this solo album and finally releasing these songs by myself. I’ve been creating for many, many years.

Are you referring to the passion fruit lilikoi in the song “Boy Lilikoi”? Or is it something else? Yeah! Ha!

Is lilikoi something that you like to eat? Maybe it has a different meaning. Maybe it’s about nature and living in the wild and dreams. Maybe meeting some young boy out in the forest.

You collaborated with your partner, Alex Somers, on the album Go as well as before. How does being in a relationship effect creative collaboration? It’s actually quite healthy. I like it. Alex is this amazing person who really inspires me. We have kind of the same taste in everything, like music, movies and books and clothes and food; nearly everything. We fit well together. It’s really good for me. We support each other and help each other with songwriting.

He helped me choose the songs for this album and produced the album with me. So, yeah, it’s really good.

What happens when you disagree on things? We just bicker a little bit and try to convince each other that you are right. But then somebody just gives in in the end.

If you hadn’t teamed up with Nico Muhly, how different do you think the experience of making Go would have been for you? It would be definitely different. It wouldn’t have so much stuff on it. I think Nico definitely added a lot of atmosphere and colors and playfulness and life to the album, which I’m really happy about. It’s what I wanted it to be and that’s exactly what I wanted him to do. I really love his arrangements and I’m really happy with him.

The woman-focused Lilith Fair was revived this past summer. A number of years ago, there was talk of a gay version of Lilith with Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell, Rufus Wainwright and Magnetic Fields. If they were to try to revive it, is that something in which you might be interested in participating? Yeah, maybe. That sounds really cool, actually.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas