by Gregg Shapiro
Downtown NYC performance legend Justin Vivian Bond (formerly known as Justin Bond) will be familiar to readers as the proprietor of the sex-club in John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus, and one-half of the campy cabaret duo Kiki and Herb. Dendrophile (justinbond.com) marks Bond's solo recording debut and includes "In the End," the song Bond performed in Shortbus. It's a terrific, powerful song, and fits in nicely with the rest of the material on the disc. Bond covers Joni Mitchell ("Court and Spark") and Joan Baez ("Diamonds and Rust," paired up in a medley with Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett's "Superstar"), and does the songs justice. Another cover, "The Golden Age of Hustlers," illustrates Bond's gifts as an interpreter. More than half the selections are original Bond compositions, ranging from the hoedown of "Equipoise" to the drag drama of "The New Economy" and the sexy pop of "Genet." Be warned, Bond's voice is an acquired taste, but one worth attaining.
Produced by rocker Andrew W.K., Regifted Light (Drag City) by Baby Dee is a mostly instrumental effort, with Baby Dee at the piano (a concert grand) venturing into modern classical territory. Simply put, it's gorgeous. Call it classical music for hipsters. Amusing title aside, the gorgeous "Cowboys with Cowboy Hat Hair" could have been the soundtrack to one of Brokeback Mountain's scenes of passion. "Coughing up Cat Hair" is one of the album's most stirring compositions. Baby Dee can be heard singing on four songs.
Black Crow (Flaming Dame) is the latest disc by trans singer/songwriter Namoli Brennet. Between the image of a wheatfield on the cover and songs like "Iowa" and "Honeybee," this is one of Brennet's most country-oriented recordings. Those more familiar with Namoli's folk-pop material will find something to like in songs such as "Do It Now."
The double-disc Shipwrecks & Dreamboats (actorslashmodel.com/madsen/ homoticons) by Madsen Minax & The Homoticons is a very ambitious project. Madsen (of Actor Slash Model fame) fronts this "wayward quartet of transcentric trespassers" as they acoustically traverse a variety of themes in the most somber language. Not an easy journey, but one worth taking.
Elias Krell of the Homoticons steps out solo on Takin My Take (eliaskrell.com). Krell gets right to the heart of the trans matter on the personal and powerful "She," both a love song and an addressing of complex gender-identity issues. Love also comes into play on "I Think You're Crazy."