Popular music reviews

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dance If You Want To

Everyone wants to be Avicii. Even established dance artists such as David Guetta and Calvin Harris. Unfortunately, both Guetta and Harris’s new albums come up short when compared to the incredible success of Avicii’s True disc, or Disclosure’s Settle, for that matter. Of the two, it’s French DJ Guetta who catches our ear with Listen (Atlantic / Parlophone), while Harris doesn’t move us with Motion.

The eponymous 2011 album by Arthur’s Landing was a cause of celebration. A musical collective whose members had previously performed with the late gay musical mastermind Arthur Russell, Arthur’s Landing joined the chorus of others who made efforts to keep Russell’s music and memory alive. Four years later, Arthur’s Landing returns with the double CD remix disc Second Thoughts (Buddhist Army). It’s hard to imagine what Russell, whose contributions to dance music can still be felt today (just ask gay rapper Cazwell, who sampled Russell’s Loose Joints track “Is It All Over My Face?”), would think about the current state of remixing or the use of the word remix, for that matter. Still, it is eye (and ear) opening to hear the Cooked Audio mix of “It’s a Boy,” the Alkalino mix of “Tell You Today,” the Standard Planets mix of “Dumbo Dumbo,” and the Virgin Magnetic mix of “Change My Life,” and the way they make Russell more relevant than ever.

Friday, July 10, 2015

QMusic: 12 x 2

Sister acts, such as the brilliant trio Haim, are a hot commodity. Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit – aka Johanna and Klara Söderberg – can take their place alongside Haim as proof positive that sisterhood is powerful. Stay Gold (Columbia), First Aid Kit’s major label debut, and fourth full-length disc, is good for what ails you. Exquisite harmonies, intelligent and sensitive lyrics, and pleasing acoustic arrangements make these ten shimmering and solid modern folk songs, including standouts such as Waitress Song,” “Master Pretender,” “My Silver Lining,” “Fleeting One” and “Heaven Know,” worth their weight in gold.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

QMusic: Stages and Screens in 2015

Lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s universally lauded graphic novel Fun Home might not seem like the most ideal candidate for a Broadway musical. The autobiographical story of Bechdel’s coming out in college, her childhood growing up in her family’s funeral home (hence the title Fun Home), and her complex relationships with her parents, particularly her bisexual father Bruce who committed suicide, is an emotional roller-coaster. But leave it to Jeanine Tesori, who co-wrote new songs for the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie and collaborated with Tony Kushner on Caroline, Or Change, to bring it to fruition, with lesbian book writer and lyricist Lisa Kron. Fun Home: A New Broadway Musical (PS Classics), the original cast recording of the multiple 2015 Tony Award-nominated show, features Tony-winning actor Michael Cerveris as Bruce, Tony-nominee Judy Kuhn as Alison’s mother Helen, and three actresses as the lead character, identified as Small Alison (Sydney Lucas), Medium Alison (Emily Skeggs), and Alison (Beth Malone). To the credit of all involved, Fun Home maintains the humor and tragedy of the book, honoring the original material and brilliantly expanding the audience for both the book and the show.

Friday, June 12, 2015

QMusic: Dusty’s Dynasty

There are many albums in the annals of recorded music that have been shelved, never to be released. Whatever the reasons, artistic or creative or financial, some of these recordings eventually make it to the marketplace, either as bonus material on expanded reissues of other releases or are ultimately issued on their own. Faithful (Real Gone Music / Atlantic) by lesbian pop music icon Dusty Springfield arrives as the latter. Originally intended to be Dusty’s third album for Atlantic, following the amazing Dusty in Memphis and Brand New Me. Produced by Jeff Barry, who also contributed a few songs, the long-awaited release of the complete Faithful consists of 13 tracks, including the bonus cut “Nothing is Forever,” as well as the singles “Haunted” and “I Believe in You.” The disc also New Wave Singersincludes Springfield’s takes on classics such as Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend” and Bread’s “Make It With You.”

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