Hot tunes for cooler temps

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday February 13, 2024
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Hot tunes for cooler temps

Cuddle up next to your stereo, or just plug in your Spotify or iTunes, and enjoy some songs written, in most examples, by, for, and about us.

Gay musician Scott Free has been a protest singer for much of his recording career. From the visceral punk rage of his albums "Getting Off" (1997) and "The Living Dead" (1999) through "The Last Revolution" (2020). Therefore, it's not all that surprising that Free's new album "Songs to Fight Oppression" (Leather/Western) continues that tradition by turning some chants heard at protest marches into songs.

In Free's capable hands, the tunes "This Is What Democracy Looks Like" and "We're Here We're Queer" elevate the mantras into anthems, that will easily find a home at rallies during this election year. Other standouts include "Welcome Here," "Her Body Her Choice," "We Call On A General Strike," and "Uprising."

It's been a while since a lesbian singer/songwriter came along who has earned a comparison to the legendary Ferron, but Rachel Garlin deserves the honor, especially on the songs from her new album "The Ballad of Madelyne & Therese." You can hear what Garlin does with Ferron's influence and inspiration on "You Don't Know," "Louisa," "Night Time," "Melancholy Blue," "Speak," and "Never Cabaret. The presence of queer musicians Allison Miller and Julie Wolf also adds to the appeal of this thematic album about queer life in the past. Rachel Garlin performs on March 23 at The Lost Church, 988 Columbus Ave.

Singer/songwriter Cidny Bullens may be a familiar performer to some. Bullens, who came out as trans in 2012 (at the age of 62), previously put out eight albums, including the acclaimed 1999 release "Somewhere Between Earth and Heaven," about the death of their daughter Jessie.

Remastered and repackaged as "Little Pieces" (Kill Rock Stars Nashville), Bullen's debut recording as Cidny (previously self-released as "Walkin' Through This World") is another powerful personal statement. The title track, "The Gender Line," "Call Me By My Name," "Healing the Break," and "Walkin' Through This World," are all meaningful, necessary, and welcome additions to the growing playlist of songs about the trans experience. The presence of guest artists including out singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier, as well as Rodney Crowell and Beth Nielsen Chapman, makes this an essential listening experience.

Where would we be without our allies, especially at this precarious moment in time? On "Thank God We Left The Garden" (Fluff & Gravy), Jeffrey Martin's first album since 2017, the Portland-based singer/songwriter attempts to answer that question. The song "Red Station Wagon," confronts homophobes, himself included, as an act of atonement. A beautifully rendered story-song about a youthful betrayal, the harm words can do, and the damage religion is capable of inflicting on queer people ("the church was a boot on your neck since the day you were born"). Talk about redemption!

Winner of the 2023 Polaris Music Prize, Debby Friday is a Canadian electronic music artist who clearly made an impression with her debut album "Good Luck" (Sub Pop). It's easy to see how, beginning with the empowering titular opening track which sounds like it arrived from the future via musical time machine. "So Hard To Tell" is forward-looking soul music, and "I Got It," featuring Uñas, and "Hot Love," are rapid-fire club bangers that are sure to wear you out. Friday's talent for experimentation can be experienced on "Safe" and "Pluto Baby."

The most delightful, female-led Japanese band since Pizzicato Five, Shonen Knife, Cibo Matto, or Puffy AmiYumi, Chai is bound for the club on its new eponymous Sub Pop album. You'd be wise to follow them and drink in the fabulous, spicy, and retro-inspired dance numbers such as "Game," "From 1992," "Like I Need," "Karaoke," "Para Para," and "Ne Kawaii, K?."

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