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

Electronica popsters STRFKR talks its gay bar origins before tonight’s show at Prophet Bar

Last year, Starfucker (or STRFKR for short) released its impressive  sophomore album Reptilians, a trippy endeavor that showed some interesting growth since their 2008 self-titled debut. Dare I say, they sound like what Pink Floyd might have if they had gone the synthy-dreamy route.

Bassist Shawn Glassford, above far right, took a few moments to talk about their first show ever at the San Francisco Eagle, how they might fare at our own Dallas Eagle and whether he would top or bottom for Ryan Gosling.

Read our Q&A after the jump. Then catch them at The Prophet Bar tonight with Painted Palms and Alexico.

—  Rich Lopez

Galaxy quest

GalaxyWith musical superstars heading this way, we look to the skies for answers

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

The gays are not without major music options as five big acts all head to town. From the mainstream pop of Kylie to the lesbi-rock of Brandi Carlile, and lots in between, it might be tough to navigate through the slew of music stars retrograding Dallas. Thus we searched for celestial advice on how to find our way through the asteroids and harmonies on which shows to consider.

The moon: Brandi Carlile

Although 2004 was the year Carlile broke into the music industry, it was her sophomore album that proved she’s no slump. For a newer artist, 2007’s The Story was like her Born to Run, featuring some big names behind it with T-Bone Burnett producing and a collab with the Indigo Girls. Carlile remained just as hot and 2009’s Give Up the Ghost did not disappoint. She worked with star producer Rick Rubin and offered another gay pairing with Elton John on “Caroline.”

With her show at the Granada, she’ll appear just as close as a full moon and likely shining as bright. Carlile has not made a career misstep so far and people are recognizing now how huge she could easily become. But the show is sold out so if you don’t have tickets already, make other plans. Your house is clearly not in her plane.

Appearing with Ivan an Alyosha.

Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. May 16 at 8 p.m. $29. GranadaTheater.com.

Mars alignment :
Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae

Despite the obvious, the celestial advisors have told us that Mars is the perfect place for these two. 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 more of an anomaly. Although he’s doing the hipster throwback version of old soul acts, his songs from his debut Doo-Wops & Hooligans have minimal impact. The kid is talented and his multi-instrumentalism should be respected, but where Monae will likely leave you wanting more, Mars may too — more Monae.

Appearing with Patrick Stump.

Verizon Theatre, 1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie. May 17 at 7 p.m. $35. Ticketmaster.com.

The sun:
Kylie Minogue with DJ Erik Thoresen

When this show was announced, there was a collective squeal from the gays. Minogue has never been Madonna or Britney, but she’s built a following that rivals both. Last year’s Aphrodite also took her to new heights musically. A solid package of pop and dance confections, Minogue reminds us that she is a star.

Her concerts have a reputation of being visual spectacles as well that apparently rival the likes of some Cirque du Soleil shows. That alone is worth the ticket.

Station 4 DJ Erik Thoresen was tapped to be the opening entertainment so this big pop-stravaganza also has big time local ties.  Without a doubt, this is the party of the week, if not the concert.

Verizon Theatre, 1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie. May 18 at 8 p.m. $50–$125. Ticketmaster.com.

House of Uranus: Of Montreal

While Of Montreal is too smart to be considered a party band, their brand of indie dance music is something more than infectious. The high energy and trippy lyrics get into your soul and skin and turn you into a dancing monster.

Maybe Monae has moved on, but OM is perfect for the mid-sized venue. Imagine a packed house and sweaty dancing bodies. Singer Kevin Barnes should put on quite a physical show.  We love when he gets all sexy and dirty, but we’re just sorry he has to compete with Kylie for attention. That’s like Sophie’s choice. No fair.

Appearing with Painted Palms.

South Side Music Hall, 1135 S. Lamar St. May 18. Doors at 7:30 p.m. $20. GilleysMusic.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Hudson grows in new CD

The last time we were media blitzed by Jennifer Hudson, she was winning awards for her movie and album debuts. Hudson stepped away from the spotlight when her mother and brother were murdered, but she’s been quitely coming back — first as a Weight Watchers spokesperson, and now for her sophomore album, I Remember Me.

Considering her recent past, Hudson could easily have made a maudlin album. Instead, she’s delivered a mature set of R&B grooves showing the emergence of a woman. With some help from Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and Ne-Yo, the album stays fresh (while sometimes bordering on passé) with Clive Davis helming the production and Diane Warren injecting sappy ballads.

Despite the soft opening of “No One Gonna Love You,” the album gets going with “I Got This.” This could have been a self-help anthem, but she keeps it cool without showing off her strong voice.

She turns the emotion on in “Where You At.” There is a patience here that’s unexpected, but she can pack a punch. Lyrics like Thought you were my hero / But as it turns out, you a no-show are kinda sassy, but her disappointment reaches beyond the speakers and man; you just feel bad for her.

Davis’ oversight sometimes makes the album a little obvious and the impact is referential rather than modern. What saves it is Hudson believing in these songs. Her most personal song, “I Remember Me” (which she co-wrote), is part ballad, part declaration. With a heavy bass spine, it’s still a delicate bird of a song and knowing her tragic story, she shows her survival mode and even celebrates herself without being narcissistic.

For a relatively newbie artist, Hudson can vocally walk a tightrope with subtle emotion. She holds back when you think she’ll explode with a vocal run, and then she’ll throw one into the fire once you’ve settled back into her quiet groove. It’s a nice trick.

The album does suffer with some clichés. Keys pens three boring songs (you wonder if these are her throwaways because they never resonate). That said, “Don’t Look Down” has a glorious ’80s adult R&B vibe a la Patti Austin or Jeffrey Osborne.

The excitement trails off in the second half and lumbers a bit. The one punctuation that keeps it afloat is “Feeling Good,” made famous by Nina Simone. This gives a punch of energy much needed by this point. Everything is right about this version from the lush horn riff to Hudson’s respectful homage but leaving a very personal stamp on it.

I Remember Me is an exciting step forward for Hudson. Here, she seems to be recognizing the fairy tale that is her life and embracing its reality. She picks up where Whitney and Toni have left off and contemporary music has been missing that kind of vocalist. Despite some missteps, it’s nice to see her return and do so with substance.

— Rich Lopez

Three-and-a-half stars.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Adele-ized: Soulful Brit’s new CD sort of confuses but still wins over

FINALLY OF AGE | Adele’s rich voice is the centerpiece in her second album ‘21,’ but her songwriting also shines.

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Since the wave of the Amy Winehouse-led British soul invasion of 2007 has winded down, we can now focus directly on the work of Adele. She rode that tide with an impressive debut, 19, that garnered her two Grammys. But where 19 showcased her husky soulful voice, her sophomore album, 21, shows us her emotional side. And it’s kinda schizophrenic.

Adele explodes out of the gate with “Rolling in the Deep,” also the first single. A powerful song reflecting shades of Florence and the Machine beats, it’s also a declarative opener that this isn’t the meek 19-year-old we were introduced two years ago. She’s empowered — we think.

Following that with “Rumour Has It,” a similarly strong (and groovy) track, and the ballad “Turning Tables,” Adele clearly wants us to know that she’s not taking shit from her man. Lyrics like Next time I’ll be my own savior / Standing on my own two feet really define her attitude and set the tone for 21.
Until track four.

Adele does a 180 with “Don’t You Remember.” Structurally, the ballad is delicate, but she almost begins apologizing for her feelings, singing words like I know I have a fickle heart and a bitterness. It’s almost a let-down to hear her cave in as if her strong will didn’t work for her; now she’s gonna beg for her man — and do it for the next four songs.

If her emotions change mid-album, her sound changes distinctly for one. “I’ll Be Waiting” may not have the twang, but it’s boisterousness is distinctly pop-country and would be right at home on a Carrie Underwood album. Despite the shift, the album refreshes here. Horns blare and piano keys are abundant, but her voice in this capacity has wonderful effect.

The one real hiccup in the album is her cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong.” The idea behind it sounds curious and with minimal guitar arrangement behind her, it should work. Instead, it seems random. I’m never sure what it adds to the album and it doesn’t improve so much on the original. Perhaps she thought 10 tracks weren’t enough, so “let’s throw in a cover.”

Regardless of her emotional turns, what really keeps 21 afloat is Adele’s voice. The musical arrangements are slightly veiled in their production, giving Adele’s voice center stage. That gravelly sound is so beautifully rich that you just want to bathe in it and never get out. She goes places vocally Winehouse or Duffy can’t.

As if that’s not enough, Adele wrote or co-wrote all of the original songs. The tracks are mature but don’t sound too big for her to handle. The album shines on her strong writing as well and the potential of what it could be down the road for her. Which could be greatness.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Cosmo Jarvis and ‘Gay Pirates’

Apparently I missed this “Internet sensation” when it came out last month. Perhaps it was replaced by another one the day after. While shuffling through e-mails, I received one two days ago and discovered that Brit-based singer-songwriter-filmmaker Cosmo Jarvis had released his song and video for “Gay Pirates.” The press release makes it sound a little more important than it is:

More than a moving song and video, “Gay Pirates” is an honest look at two lovers and the discrimination that they faced at a time in history that seems to have passed…or has it? Hundreds of years after the glimpse of society Cosmo Jarvis exposes in the track, “Gay Pirates” is focused on breaking down the homophobia that still remains today. Cosmo Jarvis has created a timeless pop song, not only from a historical/socio-political perspective, but also from a melodic and lyrical one.

I don’t know about timeless, but it’s a cute dittie with a cute DIY kind of video. And it’s all here for your Internet sensation viewing pleasure after the jump. The not-gay singer will include the song on his sophomore album, Is the World Strange or am I Strange?, slated for an early 2011 release.

—  Rich Lopez