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Friday, April 28, 2017

Dance Like You’re Straight

Written by  Gregg Shapiro

Let’s face it queer folks, dance music was never our exclusive domain. Attend an electronic dance music festival or concert and you’re likely to see as many straight people as you’d see at the Vans Warped Tour. Our straight brothers and sisters are not only dancing to it in growing numbers, they’re making it, as well.

You probably never imagined you’d be dancing to a Flaming Lips song, but you’d be wrong. Moving in a decidedly and daring electro direction on Oczy Mlody (Warner Brothers), The Flaming Lips blow a sizzling kiss towards the dance-floor. Partially the outcome of collaborating with Miley Cyrus (yes, her), who can be heard here on “We A Family,” these 12 songs move the band’s brand of psychedelic music into the 21st century and beyond. Even without a remixer’s pawprints on them, “Do Glowy” and “One Night While Hunting For Fairies and Witches and Wizards to Kill” are inviting dance tracks. Mostly glitchy and hazy, Oczy Mlody redefines the chill-out vibe and redefines everything you thought you knew about this always compelling band.

Electronic music trio Future Islands ramps up the dance grooves heard on 2014’s brilliant Singles on the equally exhilarating The Far Fields (4AD). The dance beats are tantalizing and the melodies are alluring, but Future Islands’ secret weapon is front-man Samuel T. Herring. No one else sounds quite like him or moves like him. His soulful and emotive vocals take every song to an entirely different level. Opener “Aladdin” is sure to rub dancers the right way. There is also a conscious variety to the throbbing dance beats and funky bass lines, exemplified by “Time On Her Side,” “Ran,” “North Star,” and “Black Rose.” The radiant duet with Debbie Harry on “Shadows” is the proverbial cherry on top.

Neko Case, of the New Pornographers, should be a dance diva, worshipped and adored by gay men around the globe. On Whiteout Conditions (Collected Works / Concord), she gets her chance. A Canadian band better known for its wonderful melding of classic and modern pop styles, The New Pornographers take a delightful detour with the 21st century new wave update heard on this album. Most of the 11 thought-provoking songs, written by A.C. Newman, are driven by a combination of propulsive beats and synthetic keys. Songs including the title cut, “Play Money,” “High Ticket Attractions,” “Avalanche Alley,” “Juke,” and “Clockwise,” featuring Case, who solos and shares vocal duties, will come through as well at a dance club as they do on listeners’ home sound systems.

It doesn’t have to be salsa night at your favorite hangout for you to find a reason to dance to the songs on Tastes Like L.A. (lascafeteras.com) by Las Cafeteras. This mixed gender East L.A. band whose “party with a purpose” mission gives you something to think about in songs such as “If I Was President,” “Vamos to the Beach,” “Two More Days,” “Señor Presidente,” and its rendition of “This Land is Your Land,” while you dance.

However, if your taste in dance music leans (or slams) more towards surf or garage rock, consider youthful punk band The Regrettes. Fueled by raw and riveting female energy – the band is made up of three women and one guy – The Regrettes’ debut album Feel Your Feelings Fool! (Warner Brothers) doesn’t mince words. Covering subjects to which people of all ages can relate, The Regrettes sing about social, sexual and personal issues on songs such as “A Living Human Girl,” “I Don’t Like You,” “Hey Now,” “Juicebox Baby,” “Hot,” and “Ladylike / Whatta Bitch.”

On their respective previous albums, Grouplove and Coin gave us the impression that they had an affinity for dance music. However, on their new releases, it seems as if both bands are attempting to distance themselves from the dance floor.

“Welcome to Your Life,” the opening cut on Grouplove’s Big Mess (Canvasback / Atlantic) is more arena than club. You can dance to “Do You Love Someone” but it rocks enough to appeal to the fist-thrusters in the crowd. “Good Morning” is the one song sure to go directly to people’s hips, while the suggestive “Don’t Stop Making It Happen” has its funky charms.

Here’s the biggest problem with Coin’s How Will You Know If You Never Try (Star Time / Columbia) – aside from the dreadful cover art and title – it sounds too generic. There’s nothing especially distinctive about any of the songs, most of which were written by committee (the four band members and sundry others). In the interest of finding something nice to say, “Are We Alone?” and “Miranda Beach” aren’t bad.

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