Kudos to Swedish singer/songwriter Jens Lekman. His new album, Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian), has some of the most irresistible (if zany) dance tracks you are likely to hear this season. “Evening Prayer,” about Babak, his tumor, and a 3D printer, may be the most bizarre tea-dance sensation you’ve ever heard. The island rhythms of “What’s that Perfume You Wear?” is sure to activate more than a few of the listener’s senses. The joyful “Wedding on Finistére” goes for an 80s-style Council beat and energy, while the persuasive funk and “Cambrian explosion” of “How We Met, The Long Version” divides its time between your hips and your feet. Lekman also deserves praise for including the masterful juxtaposition of a song about one male friend’s love for another (“How Can I Tell Him”) and a song about a Mormon missionary (“To Know Your Mission”). The Tracy Thorne duet on “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel” is the icing on the delicious cake.
Would we have Mitski without queer artist St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark)? Possibly, but it’s hard to ignore St. Vincent’s influence. Nevertheless, Mitski is boldly and brilliantly her own artist on Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans); beginning with the stuttering beat and fluttering vocal of the bizarre “Happy,” a song that morphs from experimental to pure pop and back again. Her loud/quiet/loud approach on “Best American Girl” suits the drama of the subject matter. Listeners would be wise to prepare themselves for the shift from the string-busting, shrieking punk of “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” to the exquisite ballad “Thursday Girl.” Like puberty, there is never a dull moment on this album and Mitski makes nothing less than an indelible impression with songs such as “Crack Baby,” “Dan the Dancer,” and “Fireworks”.
It’s hard to imagine an American musical genre with a wider spectrum of fans than country music. Drawing on listeners of all ages, from all races and creeds, gay and straight, and political affiliations, it’s probably the one genre in which listeners mix in peaceful harmony. With the exception of a few artists (talking about you, Toby Keith and Blake Shelton), the LGBT community is welcome at concerts by Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, LeAnn Rimes, Carrie Underwood, as well as out country artists such as Brandy Clark, Ty Herndon, and Chely Wright, and others.
Anybody who counts themselves as a Rufus Wainwright fan knew that we were going to lose him to opera sooner or later. All of the signs were there, beginning with the song “Damned Ladies” on his brilliant 1997 eponymous debut album. Wainwright often discussed his love, rather obsession, with opera, so none of this should come as a surprise. In 2015, a double disc recording of Wainwright’s 2009 opera Prima Donna was released, making it more or less official. Or did it? Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets (Deutsche Grammophon), Wainwright’s musical observance of the Bard’s 400th anniversary year, does something remarkable. It seamlessly combines Wainwright’s opera fixation with his pop passion, as he set selected sonnets to music. In addition to Rufus himself, the album features a stellar array of guest vocalists, including opera diva Anna Prohaska, singing sister Martha Wainwright, Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine), as well as spoken passages performed by Carrie Fisher, William Shatner, Helena Bonham Carter, Siân Phillips, and others. Perhaps most amazing is the song “Unperfect Actor (Sonnet 23),” in which Wainwright rocks harder on record than ever before.
If you stick around in the music biz long enough, sometimes you return to the record label where you started. Paul McCartney will be doing so after inking a deal with Capitol. Pure & Simple (Dolly / RCA), the new album Dolly Parton, who recorded for RCA from 1968 until 1985, is another example of an artist returning to the roost. Pure & Simple is the absolute right name for this ten-track album that features eight new Parton compositions and two classics from the archives, with production that is respectful of the artist. Famous for timeless love songs (“I Will Always Love,” for instance), Parton is still able to find new ways to express affection in songs such as “Never Not Love You,” “Outside Your Door,” “Head Over High Heels,” and “Forever Love.” Parton also puts her own spin on the cheatin’ tune with “Can’t be that Wrong.”
REACHING OUT TO THE GAY AND LESBIAN COMMUNITY?
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