Queer music club

by Gregg Shapiro

The guys from American Music Club, led by out front-man Mark Eitzel, are back with “The Golden Age” (Merge), their radiant, but restrained, new album. Transplanted to Los Angeles from San Francisco (after Eitzel’s brief Chicago stint), with two new band members in tow, American Music Club polishes up a baker’s dozen songs for your listening pleasure. One can’t help but wonder if the relocation had anything to do with the Beach Boys-like harmonies on “The Victory Choir.” And what about the electrified twang on “The Decibels and the Little Pills” or the waltz of “I Know That’s Not Really You”? The disc’s generally mellow tone forays into feedback territory on “The Windows on the World,” a song about the World Trade Center. Of course, AMC haven’t abandoned their homeland entirely, as you can hear on “All the Lost Souls Welcome You to San Francisco” and “The Grand Duchess of San Francisco.”

Speaking of San Francisco, if Pansy Division played Americana they might sound something like queer trio The Winsome Griffles on their folksy debut disc “Meet The Girffles” (winsomegriffles.com). Led by Larry-bob (of Holy Titclamps fame), The Winsome Griffles focus their fierce attention on frightful entertainment and its long-lasting impact (“Birthday Party Clown”), a low time on the high seas (“Gay Cruise”), changes in friendships (“Your Stupid New Boyfriend”), a religious reality check (“Atheist Gospel Song”), and bullies and willing victims (“Crush Me”), and more.

“Reverie” (jannklose.com) is a suitable name for the new full-length Jann Klose disc. From the photo of Klose in repose on the cover to the languorous mood of songs such as “Give In To This Life,” “Beautiful Dream,” “Hold Me Down,” and “Ithaca.” But if you keep your eyes (and ears) open, you will also be rewarded by the splendor of the brassy “Clouds,” the pure pop of the string-laden “Watching You Go,” and the album’s most wondrous track, “Mother Said, Father Said.”

“Static is reigning on the radio,” Ron Morris sings in “Boyfriend,” the opening track to his “Boyfriend and Other Sides of Love” (ronmorrismusic.com) EP. The retro-rooted composition makes reference to “My Boyfriend’s Back,” not only by weaving the line into the song but also through the girl-group shoo-bops in the background. Morris’s reading of the classic “Frankie and Johnny” takes advantage of the inherent queerness suggested by the song’s title. A cover of “We All Sleep Alone” (a Cher hit co-penned by out singer/songwriter Desmond Child and Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora) and the original “Masterpiece of Why” maintain the vintage spirit. The disc closes with four remixes of “Boyfriend,” all of which, in their own ways, find new ways of allowing the listener to experience the song.

Queer rocker Ariel Aparicio has never sounded more like Bono than he does on “Heaven” from his latest album “All These Brilliant Things” (arielaparicio.com). On the other hand “The New World” has a distinctive David Bowie edge to it. In fact, throughout the disc Aparicio slips in and out various rock styles like a runway model. A gay dad, Aparicio is dedicating all the proceeds from the sale of his single “I’m The One,” to the Paul Chester Children’s Hope Foundation. Other notable tracks include the hard rocking “Jameson & Cocaine,” the Latin-tinged “Down In Tijuana,” and the rhythmic “Hang Around.”

The thing about the girls-with-guitars club is that it would seem that there will never be a shortage for the foreseeable future. Emily White sounds as though she’s been studying the best on her terrific new CD “12 Ways To Live” (emily-white.com). For instance, White sounds as though she’s emulating Melissa Ferrick on “Believe In Me,” while making her own wholly original statement. “Omaha” sounds like it could be from the Jonatha Brooke songbook. Comparisons aside, White never fails to be captivating on this lively disc, particularly on the songs “7th & A,” “Every Pulse,” “Georgia,” and the disc’s most unshakable track, “Good Enough Reason.”

Jana Losey takes a more straightforward pop approach to the performance of her material on “Bittersweet” (janalosey.com), beginning with the title track, sung “in the key of me.” “London Holiday” is a musical postcard fantasy and “(S)He Loves Me” is a new twist on an old game. “Messy Little Happiness” and “The Rest of You” are neat little numbers about love’s disarray and “Little Sister” definitely sounds like Losey would count Patty Griffin as an influence on her work.

While you’re at it, don’t miss “Saving Graces” (tanyapluth.com) by Tanya Pluth. The dozen tracks rock (“Inside Out”), sway (“Go On, Be Kind”), swing (“Traveling Home”), step lively (“Hard Place”), swoon (“Don’t Leave Here So Broken”), and stand up for what’s right (“Would You Try”), and they do it all with grace.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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