Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 25 / 22 June 2017
 

Pretty, good tunes

Music

Crooning hunks' CDs span many genres


Recording artist Jon McLaughlin.
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For some odd reason, a small pile of listenable promotional CDs on my desk have one thing in common. The solo artists are all hunks. Now, how did that happen?

For your listening, gifting or downloading pleasure, here are some singers, most of whose work merits more than a glance at their pretty faces. A few would do better to stick to modeling, silently.

Ultra-cute Jon McLaughlin's second CD, Ok Now, traverses the common genre of uplifting pop. His vocals range from strong tenor to intimate whispers and hearty blasts of pop passion, with occasional blues and rock twists. There aren't many compositional innovations here, but each song maintains its integrity. "You Can Never Go Back" recalls early Electric Light Orchestra. Other tracks are more "studio-slick" than his first CD, which focused more on his vocals and piano-playing. Similarly, his previous rough-edge look has become more L'Uomo Vogue. The catchy hooks, particularly in "Always on my Mind," are so polished you'll think you've heard the songs before, and you probably have, as a background tune on Grey's Anatomy.

Joel Evan

Joel Evan certainly fills the "very cute" bill, even after a name change (he dropped his "stage" name Jet Kenashi, taken for his debut CD, Enjoy the Sadness) and a lovely nude layout in Men magazine. But the openly gay artist's new CD Embracing the Light ...and Then Some continues his unfortunate style of singing in a quivering off-key baritone through slow and occasionally miserable melodies. Evan seems safer on more softly performed ballads where his limited vocal range isn't tasked, but on the whole, he comes off as an emo depressive who happens to be gorgeous.

Matt Zarley

Matt Zarley is openly gay, handsome and a really good singer. His five-song EP/CD Here I Am doesn't have any outstanding musical compositions, but if you like safe contemporary pop sung by and (one assumes, for) gay men, Matt's your guy. He's got the vocal chops for boy-band-style love songs like "Deep Inside," and the belt-it-out power ballad "Here I Am." The politically focused "All That Matters" inches toward being a gay rights anthem without losing its musicality. Yet compositionally, nothing stands out. If Zarley gets some more interesting songs, he'll be on his way out of the "generic soulful white guy" genre a lot faster.

From the first chords of "Love is Gone," Chris Willis vamps up an emphatic power song, with layered vocals, a kick-ass beat and a powerful presence. For butt-kicking dance grooves with memorable lyrics and melodies, Willis is already there.

Johnny Dangerous

Johnny Dangerous wins the "Out and in Your Face" award for his sexy CD, Dangerous Liaisons. With artwork of him licking his pierced tongue along the butt cheeks of a hot model, to his obscenity-laden first verse, Dangerous clarifies his position defiantly. In "Not Black Enough," he taunts, "You can't fuck with a fag who gets more skank than you." Through Dangerous' slew of gay rap songs (a growing genre), each humping beat demands a loud playing. Dangerous limits his vocal tricks to simple layers while showcasing his tongue-twisting and sex-laden rhymes. Blast it out your car's stereo and see the gangbangers jump at the bitchy lyrics and gay "Work me, Papi!" grooves.

Ariel Aparicio

If you're more of a hard rock fan, Ariel Aparicio's  All These Brilliant Things will satisfy the craving for an wall-busting old-style garage sound. Devoid of synths or over-production of any sort, the tracks, performed with his band The Hired Guns, sound like they were recorded in a rush, and maintain a frantic energy through each catchy tune. Aparicio's no great singer, but his rough vocals keep the stamina of these rock tunes fresh. I imagine this band sounds even better live.






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