DRAG: Sharon Needles - Taxidermy: WARNING: THERE IS A SPOOKY GHOST IN THIS REVIEW! Last week was the Halloween weekend, and with it came the usual amount of spooky tunes blaring on the radio. You have your Monster Mash, your Thrillers, your Spoopy Scary Skeletons, and even some Rocky Horror, if you’re adventurous. But this past Halloween weekend, I was listening to something even scarier: the music of Drag Superstar, Sharon Needles! Famous for her slam jam of a victory on the 4th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Sharon has been one of the more subversive names to come out of the show. In 2013, she released her first album “PG-13”, which as an album, I find to be genuinely okay, at best. Sharon is famous for her “Beautiful, Spooky, and Stupid” aesthetic, which is a polite way to say that her performances are extremely fucked up and scary. Unfortunately, “PG-13” as an album was channeling more Count Chocula than Marilyn Manson, and was basically full of mediocre dance tracks for the kidz to tweak to in the klub.
That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to discover that her latest album, “Taxidermy”, is a huge improvement. The reason why a lot of Drag Queens suck at making music is because:
A. 1. They can’t sing for shit.
B. 2. Most don’t really know what good music is anyway.
( BOO! I’M A GHOST! BOO! )
Sharon stands apart from a lot of drag queens, because unlike most queens who center their aesthetics on being dudes dressed as ladies, Sharon has always focused more on the shock and camp of being a genuinely spooky entertainer. Her newest album is still very much an electro-pop album, but this time it gets it right. The beats are fresh. The lyrics are macabre. Sharon’s androgynous voice is spooky, like a genderfucked Vincent Price.
The best track on the album, in my opinion, is the title track, “Taxidermy”. The lyrics “My heart has been removed / Internally dissected / Designed to be collected / Here I am posed and groomed / My flaws have been corrected / I’m your displayed investment” are likening the drag world, and to a greater extent, the world of fashion, to a Taxidermy show. “The pursuit of perfection and style” that Sharon speaks about is deep. She feels like an object who is constantly modified to be beautiful, not unlike a stuffed lion or tiger at a zoo. “Taxidermy” as an album is fun, spooky, and beautiful, and I’m definitely adding it to my Halloween rotation. Spoopy! DAVID
RIYL: Alaska Thunderfuck, Hannah Montanna, The BeeGees
Recommended Tracks: “Dracula” (1), “Taxidermy” (3), “Glow in the Dark!” (8)
DRAG: Adore Delano - Till Death Do Us Party: Adore Delano’s “Till Death Do Us Party” is the greatest thing since some person made the last greatest thing. Adore Delano, the drag persona of former American Idol contestant Danny Noreiga, is a fucking Libra from Azusa, California, and she likes to PARTY!!! Unlike those other basic queens, Adore can actually sing, which is what makes this 2014 party-pop (don’t stop.) such an unexpected joy. Like a glam version of Andrew WK, this album is all about the PARTY, and what keeps it “poppin” as the kids would say. The song “DTF” is about a daddy who likes friendship, “Party” and “Jump the Gun” are about Straight Up Partying (S.U.P.), and “I Look Fucking Cool” (starring Alaska Thunderfuck) is about exactly what it sounds like. The star single of the album, is “I Adore U” which is a soulful song about being the bad guy in someone else’s story. It’s pretty real, and it deserves to be a lot more popular than what it is now. “Till Death Do Us Party” teaches us that partying is awesome, and whenever we’re lost, we can always count on the shining light of the party to show us the way. DAVID
RIYL: Alaska Thunderfuck, Andrew WK, Smash Mouth
Recommended Tracks: "I Adore U" (4), "I Look Fuckin' Cool" (8), "My Address Is Hollywood" (11)
Fuzz - Fuzz II: For those who don’t know, Fuzz is a side-project for members of the Ty Segall Band Charles Moothart and Ty Segall. The name Fuzz is simple and very accurately states what the band’s sound is. For those who have listened to the Ty Segall band, Fuzz is very similar but is overloaded with overdrive. Every song is a garage rock psychedelic experiment with every instrument turned up all the way and has even more fuzz in between. If there is any break from the noise on this album, it does not last for more than a minute before going into a power chord heavy stampede. It is much similar to bands such as the Raconteurs or even Black Sabbath. For example, songs such as Pipe and Burning Wreath sound very reminiscent ofIron Man and lead singer Ty Segall sounds weirdly similar to Ozzy. Some of my favorite things on this album are the messy guitar solos on songs such as Red Flag that are supposed to feel like a mess but sound weirdly clean at the same time. Honestly it’s pretty hard to tell what the singer is saying the whole time, but whatever it is, it’s catchy. If you’re into messy garage rock experiments this is definitely the one for you. HARRY
RIYL: The Raconteurs, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer
Recommended Tracks: "Rat Race" (2), "Pollinate" (4), "Red Flag" (9)
Beirut - No No No: You know I was rather surprised that I liked this album so much. The last few Beirut releases I haven’t enjoyed all too much because of how dry it felt to me. Much of it was very brooding. While Beirut maintains their sound, that wistful European inspired folk with strings and accordions, there’s something different about the entire feeling of their songs on this LP. Something about it seems so much lighthearted than their previous records, which to me the songs can be very heavy although the production is not. No No No is like the first spring day after a dark, long winter. That first smile after depression. That feeling when you find out you have one more slice of pizza left in the fridge. Beirut brings in a lot of electronic keyboards to add to their typically organic instruments only setup. They still got bright pianos dancing with violins, accordions following Zach Condon’s soothing voice. This album almost has a Vampire Weekend feel. It’s as if Beirut is marching off into the sunset after having found themselves through their previous work. I dig it. This album is super chill and it makes me happy. DYLAN
RIYL: Vampire Weekend (Modern Vampires of the City), Grizzly Bear (Yellow House)
Recommended Tracks: "Ferner" (8), "At Once" (3), "Gibraltar" (1)
Introverted Dancefloor - Introverted Dancefloor: Introverted Dancefloor is not only the story of my life, but also the self-titled album of New Zealander Bevan Smith's synthy solo venture. As the name suggests, these tracks are dancey for sure. "Happiness Is Such A Mess" is a funky little ditty that will definitely get your body moving. But while you're out there busting a move, you'll definitely be feeling some feels, too. "Love," is a melancholy halftime trip that commands us to take a break from bustin' a sweat to ponder our lives. "Even If You Try," on the other hand, takes a more dance-the-feels-away approach. We've all been that shy emotional kid standing awkwardly on the outskirts of the dance floor longing to throw down but too wrapped up in our own inner turmoil to do so, and Smith is tapping into that part of each of us and trying to create a sonic safe-space for us to all get down and dirty. CAROLINE
RIYL: Caribou, Four Tet, Neon Indian
Recommended Tracks: "Love," (7), "Happiness Is Such A Mess" (1),"Dark Cloud Scene" (4), "Tiger Bones" (13), "Giving Up On Summer"(9)
Escort - Animal Nature: Although disco is obviously the defining genre of their music, NewYork dance group Escort thoroughly incorporates more contemporary dance genres into their material, most notably deep house. What makes Escort particularly unique in my opinion is that although they are producing more or less electronic dance music, they perform all their music with a huge full band. They’re known for usually having about 17 people on stage, in addition to founders Dan Balis and Eugene Cho. Escort met high expectations with their second studio album Animal Nature, which is really an incarnation of Escort at its best. A few tracks truly boogie down hard - “Barbarian” is a pure disco anthem. Others, like “Helium,” push the house side of Escort; “Helium” honestly sounds like it could be an old Axwell track. Every single track has a groovy beat you can get down to, but none of them feel outdated. Let me put it this way: you would not feel weird playing these songs at a party. So cop this album if you like to get funky. CHRISTIAN
RIYL: Justice, Aviici, Bee Gees
Recommended Tracks: "Body Talk" (1), "Barbarians" (3), "Helium" (4)
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - It's A Holiday Soul Party: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings released what is probably my favorite Holiday album ever. On It’s a Holiday Soul Party, Sharon and her band take some of your favorite Holiday songs and funk them up a notch, along with some original Christmas music. The classic songs include Silent Night and 8 Days of Hanukah. Silent Night starts of with a guitar solo, which is already awesome enough, and then turns into a blues. This makes it the most unusually fantastic version of the song that I have ever heard. One of my favorite original tunes has to be Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects. It’s a pretty relaxed funk jam but is topped with a saxophone quoting the jingle bells melody. I have not listened to a lot of Sharon Jones’s music in the past, but this reminds me of any Tower of Power album you could name but with Christmas lyrics instead of talking about funk. I really don’t want to ruin this album for anyone, but everyone should listen to it. I really wish every DJ would have to play songs from this album on their shows. If you like the Holiday’s you’ll love this one for sure. HARRY
RIYL: Tower of the Power, James Brown, Otis Redding
Recommended Tracks: "8 Days of Hannakah" (1), "Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects" (2), "Silent Night" (5)
Lushes - Service Industry: I’m always scared to attach the label “post-“ to anything because I barely know what it means. That being said, I’m pretty confident Lushes is a lot of post-rock with some general experimentation mixed in. They take a guitar and drums, start playing things that you expect to turn into normal rock music, and then they say “F@#& you” and take it in another direction. Service Industry, Lushes’ second LP, explores the wide variety of directions in which the band is capable of taking us. “Auction” feels like what you would expect out of post-rock: a dark and beautiful march slowly progressing from vibey arpeggios to an assault of distorted noise. Then you’ve got “You Only Have,” which is essentially spoken word with super trippy drums banging in the background. A few other songs explore the spoken word vibe with various levels of intensity to the instrumental. As far as my favorite tracks on the album go, I find that “Low Hanging Fruit” and “Circus” are the best blend of experimenting and rock music. Coincidentally, these are the two most popular songs from the LP. This record is really good but fair warning: you will have to listen to it “intelligently” if you’re going to get through some of the weirder songs. Good luck and cheers! CHRISTIAN
RIYL: Radiohead, Swans, Mogwai
Recommended Tracks: "Low Hanging Fruit" (1), "Check" (6), "Circus" (7)
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Paper Mache Dream Big: If you have made it this far in the email, congratulations. As ther person who has painstakingly compiled, formatted, and perfected this email with attachments and links and pictures and playlists (below), I am probably more aware of how unbelievably long this email is than even you, our dear reader. So let me be as brief as I can possibly be: King Gizzard et al. is an Australian psych rock band, but this album is NOT a scuzzy psych rock album as one might expect. Why? Because they recorded it using only acoustic instruments (and a flute because why not). Consequently, the album is a whimsical piece of pop-tinged rock reminiscent of another decade -- The Beach Boys or The Beatles easily could have made these tunes that keep me yearning for summer...ASHLEY
RIYL: The Beach Boys, The Flaming Lips, Three Oh Sees
Recommended Tracks: "Bone" (2), "Dirt" (3), "Trapadoor"
CLASSIC: Francoise Hardy - Francoise Hardy: Françoise Hardy is an interesting figure in popular French music in 1964. She was part of the sub genre called "yé-yé” which was a specific style of pop music in France, Italy and Spain. The name comes from British beat music bands such as the Beatles i.e. “She loves you Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” Most of yé yé music maintains innocent themes, with Françoise Hardy’s “Tous Les Garcons et Les Filles” being one of the most famous songs of the era. It’s lyrical content "All the guys and girls my age know how it feels to be happy, but I am lonely. When will I know how it feels to have someone?” Although she dislikes that song now, she was one of the artists who stood for French youth and its angst (like many incredible artists). As a result, her other famous song “Le Temps l’Amour” is featured in the Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom. Her voice I think is quite similar to either Victoria Legrand or Nico, and the music sounds like the French version of Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground combined. Not so dark or brooding as either of the two, but still with that straight forward wispiness. Her music is calming, ernest, and overall very charming. And eventually she takes a step away from being a pop star, wanting to move forward musically and also suffering from being so famous her shyness could not compute. Listen to her music and pretend you’re a French teenager smoking cigarettes in Montmatre with the spring air blowing through your hair during the 1960s; you’ll find her soul very beautiful in addition to being one of the photogenic people alive (seriously can’t find a bad photo of her). I listen to her music most of the time when I'm cleaning my house or waking up on a Sundaymorning and cooking breakfastwhile my kitchen has beautiful natural light. Most of these songs are not on her debut album but I thought these are all a good start if you wanna get into her catalog. DYLAN
RIYL: France Gall, Serge Gainsbourg, Nico
CLASSIC: Grace Jones - Nightclubbing: Nightclubbing is the best Grace Jones album, forming her Compass Point Trilogy along with the excellent albums Warm Leatherette and Living My Life. Trying to give this album a genre is near impossible as it mixes elements of reggae, pop, new wave, disco, blues, and funk. Grace Jones is notable for being equally difficult to categorize as her career consists of not only ten full-length albums, but also a successful career as a model, actress, and club kid. I only mention her non-musical pursuits because they emphasize how important style is to Grace Jones. Even though Nightclubbing has covers of tracks by Iggy Pop (“Nightclubbing”), Bill Withers (“Use Me”), and Flash and the Pan (“Walking in the Rain”) they are twisted until they feel as though Jones herself had penned them. Jones and Nightclubbing continue to influence contemporary artists and culture without ever feeling dated. Nightclubbing is essential listening for anyone who enjoys music. KEN
RIYL: David Bowie, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Annie Lennox