Dancing in the dark
There are dark days ahead with the Trump/Pence team taking office. As they begin to erode our inalienable rights, let’s hope that dancing is not high on the list.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief that neither Trump nor Pence is smart enough to decipher the name of electro-pop band STRFKR. Otherwise, Trump might add the band the list of those owing him an apology for imagined insults. With its Norman Rockwell homage cover art and perspective of finding our collective place in the universe, the band’s fifth full-length album Being No One, Going Nowhere (Polyvinyl) does an admirable job of keeping listeners thinking and dancing at the same time. And dance they will to alluring numbers such as “When I’m With You,” “Satellites,” “Never Ever,” “Something Ain’t Right,” “Open Your Eyes” and the aptly named, albeit luminescent, “Dark Days.”
Canadian singer/songwriter Martina Sorbara pulled off one of the most fascinating musical reinventions when she switched gears to become lead vocalist (and co-songwriter) for the electro outfit known as Dragonette. It was a smart move, especially with the steady increase in attention being paid to electronic music. Royal Blues (Dragonette, Inc.), Dragonette’s fourth full-length in under 10 years, packs on persuasive beats and memorable tunes, including “Sweet Poison,” “Lost Teenagers,” “Secret Stash,” “Let The Night Fall,” and the Daft Punky “Darth Vader.” Dragonette even dabbles in retro pop on “High Five.”
On its third album Two Vines (Astralwerks), Australian electronic dance duo Empire of the Sun continues to work its musical spell, not straying too far from its trademark style that recalls the Pet Shop Boys (minus the queer energy), in both the audio and visual capacities. “Before” and “High And Low” set the dancing mood, and songs such as the wonderful “Way To Go,” “Friends,” “Ride” and “First Crush” keep bodies in motion. “ZZZ” and “To Her Door” provide hints at the kinds of diversions also afoot in the pair’s empire.
Of Montreal leader Kevin Barnes has long been coy about his sexuality. Married and divorced, Barnes’s 1999 breakthrough album with Of Montreal was titled The Gay Parade. “Let’s Relate,” the EDM song that opens the new Of Montreal disc Innocence Reaches (Polyvinyl) poses the musical question “How do you identify/how do you ID?” It’s an interesting query in an attention-grabbing tune. “It’s Different For Girls,” not to be confused with the Joe Jackson song of the same name is another hip-shaker, as is the funky “My Fair Lady,” the spare “Def Pacts,” and the glitchy “Trashed Exes.” Of Montreal also goes retro-glam as all get out on “Gratuitous Abysses.”
If you remember Since I Left You, the excellent and sample-adelic 2000 debut album by The Avalanches with fondness then you can’t help but be disappointed after waiting almost 16 (!) years for its follow-up, Wildflower (Astralwerks). Opportunities for dancing aren’t as plentiful as they were on these musical collagists’ first album, but you can still get in some rump shaking on “Subways,” the tasty hip-hop of “The Noisy Eater” (featuring Biz Markie) or “Saturday Night Inside Out.” Ultimately, Wildflower works better as chill-out music or as a game in which listeners can try to identify the obscure samples.
For as long as most people can remember, dance music has had an unbreakable link to the queer community. It was always a bonus when it was an actual LGBT person making the music, as in the case of, say, Sylvester or Bronski Beat. Alpha (darioonline.com), the EP, by indie gay performer Dario includes at least one dance-worthy tune, “Try It!,” which could go over well with the suitable remix. Meanwhile, pansexual (Google it) diva Aston is all about the dance moves as you can hear on the single “Circles,” as well as on “Pulse” and “Freak (Dance With Me),” from her debut EP.