At first glance, the LGBTQ+ artists compilation “Now That’s What I Call Proud” (Universal/Sony) might seem like the kind of Pride month pandering that many in our community have been railing against since mega corporations started slapping rainbows on everything in June. But now, as Republicans are intent on erasing us, it’s more important than ever to know we (and maybe our wallets) haven’t been abandoned (are you listening, Anheuser-Busch?).
The 16-tracks on “Proud” represent a cross-section of performers ranging from classic (Queen, k.d. lang, Elton John, Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee George Michael) to early 21st century stars (Scissor Sisters, Adam Lambert, and Tegan and Sara) and current hitmakers (Lil Nas X, Kim Petras, Troye Sivan, Hayley Kiyoko, Sam Smith, and Kehlani). With domestic compilations numbering in the eighties, let’s hope the “Now” folks remember, and continue to celebrate, LGBTQ+ artists from now on.
If all you know of non-binary musical genius Shamir is his critically acclaimed 2015 debut album “Ratchet” (containing the song “On the Regular”), then you only know part of their story. Almost immediately, Shamir basically abandoned the sound and style that brought them so much attention. On “Hope” (Kill Rock Stars), the first of two albums Shamir released in 2017, newly reissued in 2023 on chartreuse green vinyl in a deluxe remastered edition, they continued the process of distancing themselves from their previous musical outing. A more stripped-down, but no less compelling set of self-reflective songs, Shamir bravely confronts their demons on “What Else,” “Easier,” “Tom Kelly,” “One More Time Won’t Kill You,” “I Fucking Hate You,” and a cover of Blake Babies’ “Rain.” “Camouflage,” and “Bleed It Out.” It’s difficult not to wonder if this might have been the path Prince had followed if he’d embraced his queer side instead of running from it and hiding in a New Testament closet.
The nine-song cassette “a horrid whisper echoes in a palace of endless joy” (Dead Definition) is the second full-length album by self-described Philly-based “trans & gay folk/slowcore” band ther, led by studio whiz Heather Jones. It’s the kind of intimate recording that will make you wish your Walkman still worked (and that you had fresh batteries in it) so that you could slap on your headphones with the spongy foam rubber ear pads and go for a walk in the sunshine as you absorbed the beauty of “Big Papi Lassos the Moon,” “Impossible Things,” “A Whisper,” “A Brief Moment,” and “A Holiday.”
Queer Aussie singer/songwriter Alex Lahey arrived on the scene a couple of years after that other queer Aussie singer/songwriter, Courtney Barnett, so apologies for the comparison, but there are unavoidable (and admirable) similarities in their songwriting styles. That said, it’s also important to note that Lahey remains very much her own person on her wonderful third album “The Answer Is Always Yes” (Liberation). Lahey, who co-wrote nine of the ten tracks, including the rocking “You’ll Never Get Your Money Back” with Jenny Owen Youngs, has a distinctive sense of humor which comes through on “Good Time,” “On The Way Down,” “The Sky is Melting,” and “Congratulations,” all enhanced by her conversational tone.
Queer vocalist and musician Arthur Moon (aka Lora-Faye Ashuvud) has done something wondrous with their new album “Chaos! Chaos! Chaos! Side B” (Switch Hit), and that is to create music that is as experimental as it is accessible. No easy feat, indeed. Just as St. Vincent, whose sound Arthur Moon closely resembles, was able to achieve commercial success, it wouldn’t be surprising if the same holds true of Arthur Moon. There’s not a low point among the nine electronically-charged tracks, although the dramatic “The Hollow” may take some by surprise. The only complaint is that it’s all over too soon.
As any LGBTQ+ person can tell you, our allies mean more to us now more than ever before as conservatives do everything in their power to make our lives increasingly difficult. Grammy Award-winning progressive banjoist Alison Brown, who does things with banjos on her new album “On Banjo” (Compass) that may blow many listeners’ minds, has some wonderful guest artists performing with her. Lesbian guitar virtuoso Sharon Isbin appears on “Regalito.” Queer adjacent clarinetist Anat Cohen (who plays with lesbian drummer Allison Miller in the all-female jazz sextet Artemis) can be heard on the Brazilian-inspired “Choro ‘Nuff.” If you’ve never purchased an Alison Brown album, now’s the time to get “On Banjo.”
Currently based in Kansas City, MO, indie gay singer/songwriter Christopher Wilson returns with “Insular”, his first album in several years. Maintaining the elements that made his previous work so distinctive, Wilson kicks off “Insular” with the blistering “Numb,” before easing into more of a folk-pop groove on songs including the title cut and “Why Would I.” Without question, the two most memorable numbers are “Windows at Night” and “Reaching Out.”
DC-based out singer/songwriter Matt Thompson wears his influences on his fashionable sleeve on his new album “Accelerate”. The main stimuli are synth-pop, with touches of R&B. The best songs on “Accelerate” are the ones in which Thompson sounds truly inspired by his inspirations as you can hear on “Ridiculous,” “U Don’t Get 2,” and the title tune.