Hear Me OUT February 2005

By |2017-10-31T06:23:19-04:00October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

Ultimate Kylie Kylie Minogue (Capitol)
Kylie Minogue is a superstar worldwide, but in the U.S. it seems only gay men get it. In terms of career longevity Kylie continues to make outstanding dance pop years after other pop stars have faded. So it’s fitting that a comprehensive collection of her greatest hits is finally being released. Spanning two-discs and 33 tracks, “Ultimate Kylie” is a reason for any Kylie fan to celebrate, especially fans in the states where many of her records were never released. Arranged chronologically, disc one covers 1987-1992 and includes her 1988 #1 UK single “I Should Be So Lucky” and a 7″ mix of the 1987 hit “The Loco-Motion.” It’s a fun disc, though some of it is pure guilty-pleasure cheese. Disc two spans 1994-2004 and is more stylistically varied. It includes two previously unreleased tracks: “I Believe In You,” which Kylie wrote with Jake Shears and BabyDaddy from the Scissor Sisters and is already on the UK charts, and “Giving You Up.” As “best of” CDs go, there are bound to gripes about what songs were or weren’t included, but “Ultimate Kylie” is all a casual listener needs and a must-have for fans who can’t get Kylie out of their heads.
I Am A Bird Now Antony and the Johnsons (Secretly Canadian)
Alternately fragile and passionate, Antony has a voice that wouldn’t be at all unexpected coming from the mouth of an angel. To describe it in mortal terms, Antony’s warbling tenor/soprano recalls Bryan Ferry and Nina Simone coming out of a gender-ambiguous mouth. On “I Am A Bird Now” the Johnsons provide a gorgeous backdrop of piano and strings for Antony’s melancholic tales of death, gender, and love. “I Am A Bird Now” boasts an impressive list of guests. Boy George shares vocals on “You Are My Sister.” Rufus Wainwright joins Antony on “What Can I Do?” after Antony sang “Old Whore’s Diet” on Wainwright’s latest CD “Want Two.” Lou Reed plays guitar on the soul stinger “Fistful of Love.” Antony sang backup on Reed’s recent world tour, often closing the show with “Candy Says,” Reed’s song for Warhol star Candy Darling whose death bed photo graces the cover of “I Am A Bird Now.” Death permeates the album, from the opening track “Hope There’s Someone” which speaks to a fear of dying alone, to the wistfully soaring “Bird Guhl.” The album is over so soon at under 40 minutes, though it’s possible that even a moment more would break your heart.
Mercy Now Mary Gauthier (Lost Highway)
Some records have a heartbeat all their own and you can’t deny the living, breathing thing before you. So it is with GLAMA award-winner Mary Gauthier (pronounced “Go-Shay”). Her voice evokes drinking whiskey in the summertime on a weathered wooden porch. Her songs are direct and honest, no pretense. The arrangements are sparse with Gauthier’s guitar complimented by strings, organ, and harmonica. The opening lines of “Falling Out of Love” are a good way to gauge what you can expect for the next fifty minutes: “It’s a cheap hotel. The heat pipes hiss. The bathroom’s down the hall and it smells like piss.” She goes on to sing, “Falling out of love is a dangerous thing, with its slippery slopes and its weighted wings.” Gauthier’s songs are about being desperate, losing love, being hurt, yet still finding beauty in the wreckage. And she’s lived the life to back it up. At fifteen she stole a car and ran away from home, an event that led to substance abuse, a stint in a halfway house, homelessness, and even jail. When she finally sobered up and started writing songs she was 35. “Mercy Now,” her fourth album, evokes Lucinda Williams and Leonard Cohen and showcases an artist getting better with age.
Free Me Emma (19 Recordings)
Baby Spice is all grown up and if you love old-school sophisticated pop, “Free Me,” Emma’s U.S. debut, is going to spice up your life. I’ve often listened to Dionne Warwick sing Burt Bacharach songs and bemoaned that they just don’t make pop like they used to. Pop today is all about the flavor of the moment, often at the expense of craft. Emma has gone and made herself a record of songs that could easily be mistaken for 1960s Petula Clark outtakes, often with a bossa nova flavor. Spice Girls fans looking for another “Wannabe” might be disappointed. In fact, upon first listen, fans of the Spice Girls’ bombastic dance pop might find “Free Me” dull. That would be a mistake. “Free Me” doesn’t need the steroids of mega-production to keep things interesting. Emma rolls along, slowly and easily, with good, solid songwriting, a pretty, if limited, voice (hey, she’s no Dionne), and a sincere appreciation for the making pop music the old fashioned way. “Free Me” is peppered with flute, harp, and horns, instruments you sadly don’t hear in pop anymore, played live in the studio. It’s a fun, sophisticated album you can dance to – especially if you know how to samba or foxtrot.

Also released:

Nightbird Erasure (Mute)
Synth-pop masters Erasure are back with “Nightbird.” Album highlights include the pensive “Here I Go Impossible Again” and the throbbing “All This Time Still Falling Out of Love.” “Nightbird” follows the release of “The Tank the Swan and the Balloon,” a live DVD of their 1992 Phantasmagorical Entertainment tour. A must-have for fans.
Surrender Dorothy Alana Davis (Tigress Records)
Alana Davis, whose cover of Ani Difranco’s “32 Flavors” found Top 40 success in 1998, is back on her own Tigress Records label with “Surrender Dorothy,” a mix of soulful pop and bluesy folk. Her smokey voice weaves through nine originals and covers of Bob Marley’s “Nice Time and Blue Oyster Cult’s “Reaper,” an album highlight.
Blue Ball Vol. 4 Lydia Prim (Centaur)
DJ Lydia Prim, who closed Philadelphia’s annual “Blue Ball” this year, seeks to broaden your dance IQ with this continuous mix by exposing you to more than just the usual divas. A portion of the CD’s proceeds go to The Sapphire Fund which benefits Philadelphia’s LGBT and HIV/AIDS community. Listen at http://www.centaurmusic.com.
The Milk-Eyed Mender Joanna Newsom (Drag City)
San Francisco artist Joanna Newsom, distantly related to Mayor Gavin Newsom, is a classically trained harpist who sings folk songs about beansprouts in a voice that evokes a woman-child from another planet. Challenging yet charming, Newsom is an acquired taste, but a delightfully refreshing one if your taste buds are up to it.
{Sun Again} Kinnie Starr (Lakeshore)
Fans of “The L Word” should be familiar with Vancouver-based trip-hop diva Kinnie Starr. The show’s first season includes six tracks from “Sun Again” including the gorgeous “Alright,” a standout track on the show’s soundtrack. “Sun Again” is sexy and smart pop brimming with a vital energy. Listen at http://www.kinniestarr.com.
Renaissance: The Mix Collection Sasha & John Digweed (Renaissance)
In the world of dance music compilations, Sasha & John Digweed set the gold standard in 1994 with “Renaissance: The Mix Collection.” The release reached gold status in the UK and features works by Moby, Leftfield, EMF and many more. Ten years later, this three disc classic has been re-mastered and re-released for fans in the states.

About the Author:

D'Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.