Gay music men

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Todd Alsup

Out singer/songwriter Todd Alsup performs June 13 at 2:30 p.m. in the Pump! Dance Pavilion at PrideFest Milwaukee.

Is life a cabaret or isn’t it?

The gay male music scene is divided into a few different camps. Julian Yeo and Carlo Chapelle represent the cabaret/show tunes faction. Yeo’s “Deep Purple Dreams” (LML Music) adds a jazz hue to his interpretations of standards by Jobim (“How Insensitive”), Cole Porter (“Love For Sale,” “Anything Goes,” “Too Darn Hot”), Kurt Weil (“September Song”) and Irving Berlin (“Let Yourself Go”), among others. Chapelle’s “Shade of Blue” (LMGPOP) goes for a mood indigo with classics by Hoagy Carmichael (“Nearness of You”), Billie Holiday (“God Bless the Child”) and the Bergmans with Michel Legrand (“What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?”), to name a few.

Singing and songwriting

Gay singer/songwriters are in a league of their own. “Electric Grids & Concrete Towers” (Deep Tissue) is so polished and assured it’s hard to believe that it’s only Dylan Rice’s second full-length disc. Songs such as the heartbreaking duet with Grazyna Auguscik on “Eggshells & Landmines,” the bisexual encounter of “Emma Jane,” the queer country-tinged consequences of “Homewrecker’s Lament,” the thrilling centerpiece “Motel Daughters,” the dancing blues of “Pleasure Pilot” and the erotic religious experience of “Rome” buzz with the energy suggested by the electric grids of the disc’s title.

While it doesn’t have the same spark as the Rice disc, “With A Pen” (withapen.com) by Stephen Leonard is sure to appeal to fans of simple and straightforward folk-tinged tunes. Leonard has a warm, strong vocal quality. The title track (on which he boldly boasts of doing crossword puzzles in ink), the intoxicating “Intoxicated” and the piano and vocal number “7 am” hold promise for the future.

Blue-eyed soul singer Todd Alsup has a voice meant for raising the roof. Alsup puts his impressive pipes to good use on his eponymous debut album (Major Who Records), a collection of original ballads including “The Way It Goes,” “You Are” and “Getting Gone,” and jamming rhythmic tracks, such as “I Feel,” “Let’s Have A Party” and “The Only Thing.”

Josh Zuckerman has found a home for his music videos on the LGBT cable network Logo. “I Thought You Loved Me,” for instance, from his latest album “Got Love?” (joshzuckerman.com ), was in heavy rotation. Zuckerman also rocks out on the title tune “Take” and is adept at slowing it down on “Fall In Love Again.”

On the clever side, comedic singer/songwriter Ben Lerman demonstrates his diversity on the EP “Size Matters” (benlerman.com), on which he raps (“Ben Lerman Plays Ukulele”), gets you to shake your booty (“Chubby Chaser”) and flashes the suggestive retro part of himself (“The Idol in Me”).

New breed

A new breed of gay male musicians, including Owen Pallett (formerly known as Final Fantasy), Ed Droste (of Grizzly Bear), Kele Okereke (of Bloc Party) and Jónsi (of Sigur Ros) are redefining the genre. On “Death to God” (Noise On Noise) deVries invents a new genre – “shoegayze” – a queer take on the shoegaze craze of the late 1980s/early 1990s. DeVries sprinkles glitter on the 14 tracks here, glamming it up on “Boys Are Bores,” “Girl In The Fur-Skin Rug,” “Black Thursday Repeat,” “Shoulder To Shoulder” and the slim-hip shaker “Darkest Summer.”

Fans of Chris Garneau will find much to like on “Oh, Light” (Sounds Super Recordings) by Careful. Careful (a.k.a. Eric Lindley) gives listeners a soft place to land. Curl up with someone and seek the solace of “Scrappy,” “Laid, or Lain,” “Fox and His Friends,” “I Loved a Girl but She Love Me” and “We Give Up.”

Collaborative efforts

Collaboration appears to be the word of the day. One of the most inspired collaborations on record is gay male cut-and-paste electro wizards Matmos and new music quartet So Percussion’s “Treasure State” (Cantaloupe). The disc opens with the twisted tropical island breeze of “Treasure,” which is followed by the sonic splash of “Water.” “Needles” is a shot of funk, as are “Cross” and the crinkly “Aluminum.”

Victor Krummenacher, the openly gay founding member of Camper Van Beethoven, returns with “Time For Leaving” (Magnetic), a collaboration with Alison Faith Levy under the moniker McCabe & Mrs. Miller. The 11 tracks are a blues-and-roots blend of insurgent country numbers, the best of which is the stunning title cut.

More than a dozen years after his collaboration with Bernard Butler (ex-London Suede), British soul genius David McAlmont teamed up with legendary film score composer Michael Nyman (the British Philip Glass) for “The Glare” (MN). The title refers to the spotlight, and over the course of 11 songs the unlikely duo addresses the subject from various perspectives, including Susan Boyle’s (the titular track) and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (“In Rai Don Giovanni”).

Simply delicious

Coming as it does after the instantly accessible and intoxicating “Hey, Eugene,” Pink Martini’s “Splendor In The Grass” (Heinz) is a bit jarring and takes a few listens to penetrate. Gay martini-master Thomas M. Lauderdale subtly shakes and stirs listeners over the course of 14 tasty tracks. An exotic a musical experience (listen for the sitar on “Tuca tuca”), Pink Martini plays it cool throughout – the cocktail instrumental “Ohayoo Ohio,” the multi-layered titular ballad and Schubert-inspired “And Then You’re Gone,” the cabaret style of “Sunday Table,” a faithful rendition of “Sing” and even the slightly suggestive “Bitty Boppy Betty,” about a cross-dressing D.A. The disc’s near-boiling point occurs on out lesbian Chavela Vargas’ guest spot “Piensa En Mí.”

Avi Wisnia would fit in well with the Pink Martini crowd. The 10 originals on “Something New” (aviwisnia.com), including the title song, “More Than Me,” “Sink,” “The Back of Your Hand” and even the countrified “I Wish That I Could Stop Writing Songs About You,” feature piano and vocals often backed up by a tight combo. Wisnia demonstrates unique taste in covers with his compelling renditions of The Cure’s “Love Song” and TLC’s “No Scrubs.”

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