LGBTQ music fan? Take a listen to this assortment of artists who may have very different sounds, but have each earned their own queer fanbase.
Walls (Columbia Records)
Comprised primarily of original songs, the legend’s new release is her first to encompass a singular social message. As displayed on the album’s soaring lead single,”Don’t Lie to Me” and the similarly impressive “The Rain Will Fall,” Streisand is as outspoken as ever in directing her ire towards the current administration, the cultural landscape, and the general state of the world. Filled with gorgeous melodies and captivating lyrics, Walls finds The Streisand exploring both her concerns and her hopes for the future as she eloquently addresses the human condition.
However, this new collection also brings a fresh perspective to such evergreens as John Lennon’s pacifist manifesto “Imagine,” Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner’s “Take Care of This House,” and the Burt Bacharach pop standard “What the World Needs Now.” Streisand’s social activism has long been as passionate as her artistry. No wonder Walls, which combines the two, is one of the finest albums of her unparalleled career.
On his fourth full-length album, the out-and-proud performer trades his signature piano and gentle vocal stylings for a sound far more raw and electrifying. Recorded in Lyon, France, Yours finds Garneau sounding both brazen and determined. The dark, brooding lead single “Torpedo,” featuring fierce Shannon Funchess of Light Asylum, chronicles the tale of a troubled girl who can’t seem to escape a range of challenging situations, while Garneau implores her to simply “come home, come home.”
Much of the release touches on getting past tough times in one fashion or another. In another highlight, “Choices,” the artist grapples with self-realization. He explains: “This song is really about finding your true self and becoming who you are. Doing that might mean you are letting go of a part of yourself sometimes. You can mourn that part while knowing that you are better off without it. Self-liberation can feel challenging because it can feel selfish, but it should.” While Yours may feel bleak at times, it’s ultimately a transformative record about rising above the madness and coming through stronger on the other side of adversity.
Sharon Van Etten
Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar Records)
The New York-based singer-songwriter, indie darling and part-time actress returns with the most pop-driven release of her career. As Sharon tells it: “I wrote this record while going to school, pregnant after taking The OA audition. … This record is about pursuing your passions.”
Inspired by the likes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; Portishead, art-punk and avant-garde legends Suicide, Sharon Van Etten approaches themes including love and longing with an honest, albeit subtle approach. She also manages to sprinkle new idiosyncrasies into her signature sound. Sharon notably puts down her guitar for the bulk of Remind Me Tomorrow.
She’s replaced it with the sounds of synthesizers, a propulsive organ and a distorted upright piano. The result is glorious. Highlights include the menacing “Comeback Kid”; the wrenching Springsteen-esque “Seventeen”; and the uplifting “Memorial Day.” Oh, and the album’s title is a reference to the kinds of update windows that often pop up on computer and phone screens. Sharon says that she found it oddly appropriate to these particular tracks.
Girl with Basket of Fruit (Polyvinyl Records)
Eccentric, unnerving and downright magical, Xiu Xiu’s latest release is another gem in their catalog. Fronted by queer prodigy Jamie Stewart (who also goes by Butch Jenny), Xiu Xiu’s experimentalism reaches new heights on their 11th full-length studio album.
A response to the political chaos we’ve all witnessed in recent years, Girl with Basket of Fruit tackles tension, agitation, sorrow and anger. Then it transforms all those heavy emotions into something radical and transcendent. The surreal video for the album’s lead single, “Scissssssssors” is equal parts ‘80s horror film and metaphysical mind mangle — leaving viewers in head-scratching wonderment.
You truly have to see it to believe it. Elsewhere, tracks including “Ice Cream Truck” and “It Comes Out As a Joke” are harrowing, brazen and otherworldly. For those looking for something slightly more accessible, venture outside of the Basket and seek out their outstanding cover of ZZ Top’s 1983 classic rock hit, “Sharp Dressed Man.”
Cuz I Love You (Atlantic)
Leave it to Lizzo: she tickled our funny bones while looking for her “Phone,” and empowered all kinds of beauty (including gender-non-conformity) with her video of “Good As Hell.” If you’ve been clamoring for more from this phenomenon, you’re in luck: April 19, she drops her new album, Cuz I Love You. Fans are already gagging over the title single, which recalls Lauryn Hill’s masterpiece, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and a video that mixes in the sultry allure of Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man.”
Lizzo has been center stage at many a Pride celebration, in addition to the landmark lesbian event The Dinah. However, she hasn’t definitively answered questions about her own orientation. “When it comes to sexuality or gender, I personally don’t ascribe to just one thing,” she told Billboard. “That’s why the colors for LGBTQ+ are a rainbow! Because there’s a spectrum.” Love that. lizzomusic.com
Honey(Konichiwa Records / Interscope Records)
Robyn’s earlier releases brought the party; Honey brings the after-party. It’s been eight long years since the release of the universally acclaimed Body Talk. That release (which included the hits “Dancing in the Dark,” “Hang With Me” and “Call Your Girlfriend”) brilliantly merged melancholy sentiments and driving beats to create irresistible dance floor anthems. By contrast, Honey offers a mood of optimism while lowering the decibels considerably.
Have a look at the title track, performed live:
The Swedish siren tells us that Honey originates from “this sweet place, like a very soft ecstasy” and “something that’s so sensual and so good.” Highlights include “Baby Forgive Me,” the early ‘90s inspired “Between the Lines,” the memorable title track, and Honey‘s remarkable first single, “Missing U.” Despite her shift in tone, fans who’ve missed Robyn should find that Honey instantly feels like an old friend’s return. Robyn embarks on a massive world tour this year in support of Honey, and you can bet her live show will be a must-see.
Love is Magic (Partisan Records / Bella Union)
“Love’s a s***show that requires work. It’s not all lollipops and rainbows … and macaroni and cheese and John Carpenter. But nothing can distract from the fact that in spite of it all, love is still magic,” says queer and openly HIV-positive singer/songwriter John Grant regarding the title of his sensational new release. While his previous albums tended to lean on simple pairings of heartfelt vocals and acoustic guitar, with Love is Magic, Grant completes a kind of transition — fully embracing electronic music in its many forms.
The result is equal parts Pet Shop Boys and Bob Dylan — an unlikely combination that somehow manages to work. Lyrically, the collection mixes black humor, fear, anxiety and anger into a turbulent but ultimately riveting experience. On this front, Grant explains that “the lyrics aren’t just the doom and gloom of the past. They’re a snapshot of everyday life: the ridiculous, the pain, the deep longing.” Highlights include the ‘80s-inspired glitter/pop gem, “He’s Got His Mother’s Hips” and the tantalizing title track. If you’ve never seen John Grant live, book a ticket to a show on his extensive winter tour.
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Last modified: April 3, 2019