The Grammys are coming up on Sunday, and though America’s most prestigious music honors will see gay faves (Adele, Lady Gaga, Pink), bisexuals (Nicki Minaj) and even those who brag about kissing a girl (Katy Perry) vie for awards, it’s probably the least gay of the EGOT (Emmy, Tony, Oscar, Grammy) series.
So here I’m going give some much-deserved attention to bands and solo acts that will probably never get any recognition by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. But they deserve to be recognized by you. Make some room on your iPod for Jonsi (above) and other all-too-often overlooked queer acts.
Click through for the lowdown of some of today’s hottest queer indie musicians
Photos: Mercury Records, Parlophone
I often describe Patrick Wolf to friends as our generation’s Kate Bush: passionate, eclectic, left of center, British and, at times, just bloody weird. His latest album, Lupercalia, is admittedly not my favorite, though it actually might be his most accessible to date. And short of 2007’s “The Magic Position,” “The City” (above) might be the happiest song he’s ever written. For more complicated tracks, I’d recommend “To the Lighthouse,” “Tristan,” and “Magpie”—which features stunning guest vocals by Marianne Faithfull. After performing only a handful of acoustic dates in the U.S. last year, Wolf may tour the U.S. in 2012, though no announcement has been made.
Bloc Party may have gone on hiatus in 2008, but gay frontman Kele Okereke has been busy since then crafting some considerably more electro-tinged solo work. His first solo album, 2010’s The Boxer, felt like what it was: an indie rocker’s first foray into electro pop. And the fusion works! Last November’s The Hunter, a seven-song E.P., was more in the vein of straight of dance music—see lead single “What Did I Do,” featuring guest vocals by Lucy Taylor. Still, “Tenderoni” (above), off The Boxer, remains a personal fave.
Also gaining steam as a solo artist for the last couple years is Sigur Rós frontman Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson. With his band on indefinite hiatus, the Icelandic singer has recorded an instrumental album with his boyfriend, Alex Somers—2009’s Riceboy Sleeps—and, in 2010, released his first solo album, Go. The album features Jónsi’s first songs performed in English—includin “Go Do” (above)—,though his characteristic high pitched warbling is still there.
Jónsi’s solo output is much more pop than Sigur Rós’s sprawling, strangely orchestral compositions. But the same quirks are there—twinkling, tinkling chimes; atmospheric strings; resonant pianos and the general feeling that this is music that comes from ancient souls locked inside toy soldiers. Most recently, Jónsi has contributed music to the soundtrack of Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo.
Kansas City-based Ssion—pronounced “shun,” in case you were wondering—are equal parts New Wave, neo-disco and synth pop. They can go from campy gay madness (“Clown”) to playfully creepy and maybe even a bit dark (“A Wolve’s Eye”). But their cover of Young Marble Giants’ “Credit in a Straight World” (above) holds a very special place in my heart. The band is on tour (with a stop at New York’s Highline Ballroom on March 2), so catch them if you can.
Hunx and his Punx
If The Drums feel just a bit too commercial to you, may I suggest you get into Hunx and his Punx? Actually, if The Drums feel too commercial to you, you’re probably already a Hunx fan. Whatever. Frontman Seth Bogart’s faggoty retro garage pop, evident in songs like “Cruising” (above), is a blast. The band’s latest album, Too Young to Be in Love, is up for GLAAD Media Award this year. Meanwhile, Bogart has gone solo with Hairdresser Blues, which sees the usually flamboyant singer in a more reflexive mood, dealing with personal loss and emotional lows on tracks like “Always Forever” and “Say Goodbye Before You Leave.” But judging from the album’s promo clip, there’ll be no shortage of retro diner punk theatrics.
On his debut, Special Affections, John O’Reagan—a.k.a. Diamond Rings—goes from sensual slow burners like “Play By Heart” to swaggering dance tracks like “Show Me Your Stuff” (above). He combines jangly guitars with programmed beats and a minimal electro sound that, oddly, almost reminds you of ’90s gangsta rap. He’s also a big fan of eye makeup and lip gloss—and opened for Robyn on her 2011 tour.
The video for Perfume Genius’s latest single, “Hood” (above), co-stars adult performer Arpad Miklos—maybe that’s why it was initially banned from YouTube for adult content despite featuring no nudity or graphic sex. It was eventually approved but , ironically, that ban caused something of a scandal in the gay blogosphere and brought out solo artist Mike Hadreas some much deserved attention for his upcoming second album, Put Your Back N 2 It, out February 21.