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Q-Music: Sounds of Pride 2024playlist

By Gregg Shapiro



A new Pet Shop Boys studio album is always cause for celebration, especially because it’s been four years since the last one was released. In the interim, PSB released the extraordinary (and aptly

titled) “Smash” 2023 box set, easily the duo’s most complete hits compilation. On the just-released

10-song vinyl LP “Nonetheless” (Warner/Parlophone), Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe get us on our feet and dancing with opener “Loneliness,” “Feel,” and “Bullet for Narcissus.” Dancing is a theme here, not only sonically, but in song titles including the epic club track “Why am I dancing?” and the lite funk of

“Dancing Star,” as well as in the slow number “A new Bohemia” (including the line, “Who dances now to their sweet old song?”). The ‘80s vibe of “New London Boy,” which asks the question, “Is everyone gay?” is taken seriously with the inclusion of an ‘80s-style rap. PSB has always had a way with a beautiful tune, including the previously named “Feel,” as well as “The Secret of Happiness” (featuring a

full orchestra and harp!). When Brett Anderson was lead vocalist of the London Suede (the name the

band Suede was called in the US following losing a lawsuit brought by lesbian trumpeter Suede who had been using the name for years), he described himself as "a bisexual man who never had a homosexual experience." Sounds gay, he’s in! Interestingly, Anderson’s former London Suede bandmate Bernard Butler recorded a few albums with gay singer/songwriter David McAlmont as the duo McAlmont & Butler. Anderson’s latest music project is Paraorchestra, a marvelous collaboration with British conductor Charles Hazlewood, featuring guest artists Nadine Shah, Gwenno, Portishead’s Adrian Utley,

and Sons of Kemet’s Seb Rochford. Paraorchestra’s gorgeous new album “Death Songbook” (World

Circuit/BMG), available as a double vinyl LP, reimagines songs by Echo & The Bunnymen

(“The Killing Moon”), Mercury Rev (“Holes”), Japan (“Nightporter”), Black (“Wonderful Life”),

Depeche Mode (“Enjoy The Silence”), Skeeter Davis (“The End Of The World”), Scott Walker

(“My Death”) and even the London Suede (“She Still Leads Me On,” “The Next Life,” and “He’s

Dead,” in stunning orchestral arrangements you never realized that the songs required. These days, it

seems like you can’t listen to Sirius XMU without hearing “Hand to Hand” by queer singer/songwriter, from her wonderful “Blue Raspberry” album. If you dig that song, you owe it to yourself to explore “Heart of the Artichoke” (Bayonet), the layered new album by Bloomsday. Led by non-binary singer/songwriter Iris James Garrison, Bloomsday (which also includes Alex Harwood) are

purveyors of glorious enby music that is as lush as it is luminous. Before you know it, you will find

yourself singing along to “Virtual Hug,” “Where I End and You Begin,” “Bumper Sticker,” “Artichoke,”

“Look After,” and the subtle twang of “Dollar Slice.” The only complaint is that at just over 33 minutes, the 10 songs on this breathtaking album go by much too fast. Non-binary lesbian singer/

songwriter Torres (aka Mackenzie Scott, not to be confused with the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos) has returned

with “What An Enormous Room” (Merge), their sixth full-length album in 10 years. Down to just Torres, co-producer and multi instrumentalist Sarah Jaffe (with additional assistance from TJ Allen), you might expect “…Enormous Room” to sound stripped down. On the contrary, these musicians fill up the enormous room with blazing guitars, synths, and other keyboards, and plenty of beats, as you can clearly hear on “Life As We Don’t Know It,” “Collect,” and “Jerk Into Joy.” The mesmerizing and unexpected piano + vocal closer “Songbird Forever,” alternates between an unsettling “you and me”

and “you own me” state of mind. "Neon Cross,” the second album by queer country diva Jaime

Wyatt was one of the best releases of 2020. Produced by Shooter Jennings (son of country music

royalty Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter), the album was as country as can be. Now, Wyatt has returned with her third full-length, the irresistibly soulful “Feel Good” (New West). There is an audible sonic shift, beginning with the album opener “World Worth Keeping.” Wyatt, who maintains her country

twang and vocal lilt, incorporates a funky, Stax Records vibe on the previously mentioned song, as well

as on the title tune, queer love song “Love Is A Place,” “Hold Me One Last Time,” “Jukebox Holiday,” and

the Grateful Dead cover “Althea.” Produced by fellow Nashville resident and music legend Kim

Richey, “Love I Swore” (31 Tigers) is another fine effort by independent queer singer/songwriter Amelia

White. The 11 songs focus on the rockier side of country although the Nashville energy radiates loud and clear on “Nothing I Can Do,” “Beautiful Dream” (featuring duet vocals by Ben Glover), the bluesy

“Get To The Show,” the fabulous vintage country echo of “Can You See Me Now” (featuring Richey), and

the pleasingly rhythmic “Lost Myself.” “Creekbed Carter” (Gar Hole) by trans folk artist Creekbed Carter

Hogan is such an exemplary effort that, at only eight songs in length, listeners might find

themselves reduced to begging for more. An accomplished musician, Hogan’s plaintive and

powerful vocals are the perfect complement to his exceptional songwriting skills. Each song feels like

a revelation, and don’t be surprised if, as you find yourself listening to songs such as “Lord, Make Me a

Scorpion,” “If I Was,” “Sycamore,” and “Apiary,” you discover something new with each spin. “The

Relic Song” (in which Hogan takes the Catholic Church to task) is simply brilliant. In the liner notes for “Time and Evolution” (stephaniesammons.com), the full-length debut album by queer Dallas-based

Americana artist Stephanie Sammons, she expresses her gratitude to her “incredible songwriting mentor friends” including Mary Gauthier, Emily Saliers, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Jonatha Brooke,

Gretchen Peters, and Suzy Boggus. You can definitely hear the influence and

inspiration of those amazing artists throughout the 10 songs, including the standouts “Lazarus,” “Make

Me Believe,” “Innocence Lost,” and “Mend.” Fans of the late vocalist Ingrid Graudins are sure to be

thrilled to hear her voice on the song “Year of the Dog.” Also hailing from the Lone Star State is country pop duo The Western Civilization, featuring queer artist Rachel Hansbro. The pair’s lush

new album “Fractions of a Whole” (Reggie) is reminiscent of “Translanticism”-era Death Cab For Cutie (take a listen to “She’s By The Sea,” for example). But there’s more to The Western Civilization, and songs including “Bible Verses for Kids,” “If You’re Lucky,” “Noctambulism” (which sounds like a lost Bitch song),“Stitches,” “The Ocean’s On the Rise,” and “Proselytism,” are alldeserving of praise.

Some readers may recognize the name of nonbinary musician Zoe Boekbinder from their time as one half of the early 21st-century band Vermilion Lies in which they performed with their sibling Max. A

transplant from New Orleans to upstate New York, Boekbinder has just released a new album titled

“Wildflower” (Are & Be). Evocative opening track “Cover Up The Moon” sets the modern Americana tone, which they sustain on “The Rest of His Days,” the queer love song “More Like A Home” (featuring

Megan McCormick on lap steel), ”You Won’t Let Me Go,” and the down-home “No Sunshine, No

Hurricane.” Detours into vintage pop (the Elvis-esque “Hold My Hand”) and experimentation (“Garden” and “Supernatural”) keep things interesting. “When It All Goes Down” (Ringleader), the debut album

by queer singer/songwriter Sarah King is described as “Americana Noir,” and that’s a fitting description.

King’s powerful voice has a melancholy quality which gives songs including the title track, “Lord Take

My Soul,” “Blame It On the Booze,” “The Moth,” and the titular song, a haunting quality. It’s also not all that surprising that King covers Led Zeppelin’s “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” and does the band proud in the process. Gay musician Michael Quercio, whose name readers may recognize from a variety of bands including Game Theory, Permanent Green Light, and The Salvation Army, was also part of L.A.’s Paisley Underground scene of the 1980s which included The Bangles, Rain Parade, Green On Red, and The Dream Syndicate. Quercio, who gets credit for coining the term Paisley Underground, was the lead vocalist for The Three O’Clock, an especially popular Paisley Underground quartet. The Three O’Clock’s 1982 debut EP “Baroque Hoedown” has been newly reissued in an expanded edition, along with the band’s acclaimed 1983 full-length album “Sixteen Tambourines” (both on Yep Roc). When they were initially released, these Three O’Clock platters created a sense of nostalgia that was pleasing during the unpleasantness of the Reagan years. More than 40 years later, the music turns out to be timeless enough to be appreciated by 21st-century ears. Vivabeat was another L.A. band that was around at the same time as The Three O’Clock. Led by late, queer front person Terrance Robay, Vivabeat’s sound and style was more closely associated with synth-pop and glam rock. “Party In The War Zone” (Rubellan Remasters), the band’s 1980 full-length debut album, featuring Vivabeat’s best-known song “Man From China,” has been given the reissue treatment, expanding the original release’s 10 tracks to 20, with a multitude of bonus material including six that were previously unreleased. Additionally, the 12-track LP, “The House is Burning” (Rubellan Remasters) on purple splatter vinyl, includes another six songs not

available on the “Party In The War Zone.” Queer UK trio Autoheart’s most recent album of new songs is 2021’s “Hellbent.” It’s not a bad way to become familiar with the band, and tunes such as “I Know He Loves Me,” the swirling instrumental “Perestroika,” the island beat of “Rabbit in a Headlight,” the bouncy

“Older” (which sounds like a longlost Erasure gem), and the sizzling funk of the title cut, are a nice

introduction. Equally wonderful and worth owning is the recently released 10th anniversary expanded

reissue of Autoheart’s 2013 debut album “Punch” (O/R Records). Available on vibrant orange vinyl, the

triple LP set features all 15 tracks from the original CD (including the three bonus tracks). There’s not a

single bit of filler here, with the particularly noteworthy ones “Control,” “Agoraphobia,” “The Sailor Song,” “The Witching Hour,” and “Anniversary,” deserving of mention. The reissue expands on the

initial album offering with eight more songs, such as a live version of “Moscow,” as well as acoustic

renditions of “Lent,” “Stalker’s Tango,” and “Hungover in the City of Dust.” Highly recommended!

Billy Idol isn’t queer, but that hasn’t stopped countless gay men from fantasizing about him. And why

not? Between his sharp cheekbones, pouty lips and accompanying sneer, bedroom eyes,

six-pack abs, and penchant for dressing (or being half-undressed) in leather, Idol amassed a considerable queer following beginning with his days in the band Generation X and continuing through his lengthy solo career. “Rebel Yell” (Capitol/UME) Idol’s second solo album originally

released on Chrysalis in 1983, has been reissued in an expanded double LP vinyl edition featuring

eight bonus tracks, including a cover of Rose Royce’s “Love Don’t Here Anymore,” delivered in his trademark growl. Among the nine songs on the original album were some of Idol’s

highest charting singles, including the title track, “Eyes Without A Face,” and “Flesh For Fantasy.”

Amy Winehouse wasn’t queer, and she had a reputation for spouting unpleasantries toward us

when she was soused, but you’d probably need at least 10 fingers or more to count the number of drag

queens you’ve seen doing Amy at a drag show. She even asked an indifferent lover if he was gay on

“Stronger Than Me,” the opening cut on her 2003 debut album “Frank” (Island/Universal

Music Recordings), newly reissued on vinyl as a double LP picture disc set. The 11 numbers, including

“Fuck Me Pumps,” “In My Bed,” “You Sent Me Flying,” and “October Song,” hinted at what would come

next on her acclaimed 2006 “Back to Black” album.

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