Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Sound of Queer Music 2015, Vol. 1

Volume one in a five-part, end-of-year series celebrating artists and bands that fucked with the heteronormative cultural bias in 2015.

The Knocks. They're Ben Ruttner and James Patterson, an NYC-based producing duo who initially gained recognition for remixing artists like Haim, Santigold, Chiddy Bang, Ellie Goulding, Passion Pit and Katy Perry, among others. Then they started experimenting with their own sound -- sparkling, funky, carefree electronic dance music -- and collaborating with a diverse bunch of vocalists. They've released a couple of EPs and will be touring in 2016. May the momentum be with them.

Ben "DJ B-Roc" Ruttner & James "JPatt" Patterson
Song & Video: "Collect My Love." It's a sumptuous dance tune elevated by vocalist Alex Newell, best known for his portrayal of Glee's transgender character, Unique. The video features the very charismatic Newell, a glimpse of Downtown Manhattan's underground club culture and cameos by some rising drag stars.

John Grant. It's been a turbulent journey for Grant -- troubled youth, severe depression, drug addiction, testing positive for HIV. But his climb up from rock bottom has produced strikingly idiosyncratic electronic pop -- alternately witty and acerbic, profoundly personal and honest. He released his third (and most experimental) album this year, after relocating to Iceland.  Yes, Iceland. God, I love this man. The Guardian did an excellent profile on Grant in 2015 -- it's here.

John Grant ... and friend.
Song & Video: "Disappointing." It's a disco-house love song from Grant's unique point of view -- he lists the things that are now disappointing compared to the one he loves. It's got a retro hook and guest vocals by Tracey Thorn (one half of Everything But the Girl). The video follows Grant into a gym that transforms into a gay bathhouse. Oh, and there's cake. It's not disappointing. Nope.

Indiana Queen. This Nashville-based alternative country trio -- fronted by openly queer Kevin Thornton -- is confidently taking its place in a traditionally conservative musical genre. "I have no interest in pretending to be someone else. I don't care if Nashville isn't ready for it," says Thornton. Upon the release of their latest album -- This I Do Carry Unto the End -- he quipped,  "The album is country, but let's be serious, there is nothing traditional about Indiana Queen." You can visit their website here.

Indiana Queen, left to right: Kevin Thornton, Chris Housman & Samuel Damewood
Song & Video: "With You." A tender, poignant, expertly crafted ballad. The video stars Thornton and his real-life partner having an intimate encounter. "We found each other in our 40s," Thornton told Huffington Post. "We had both given up on love in some ways. The video shows two people like that who have been beat up by love and life. Gay or straight, that's something anyone can relate to."