Saturday, 30 April 2016

Tom Goss

Tom Goss (30th April, 1981) was born in Illinois, raised in Wisconsin, went to the university in Missouri and then to Washington D.C. to attend a Roman Catholic seminary. He is currently residing in LA, California. He would make a great Geography Teacher.

Thankfully, the seminary thing didn't suit him. In fact it was an awakening of quite a different kind. As Tom himself said, in an interview by James Hillis for AfterElton in 2009, before entering Catholic seminary he had never experienced real sexual desire: “It just wasn’t there for me. … I had never really even had a crush in my life.” “Sitting in Mass, reciting psalms talking about how God loves you, God protects you, God blesses you,” recalls Goss “… while standing next to somebody who is actively being predatory towards me. It’s hard to listen to the gospel when it’s being read by someone who is breaking into your room, trying to sleep with you. It’s hard to see God then.” So, shortly after entry he left and began to work in the nonprofit industry. He also pursued his music, came out and soon after met his husband, Mike, whom he married in October 2010.

I first heard a Tom Goss song in a gay-themed film that I watched sometime in 2009, whose title I can't remember for the life of me. I do remember his voice, however, which was warm and interesting enough for further exporation. I managed to find his first album, Naked Without from 2006, not without difficulty.

It was his second album, however, Back To Love in 2009, which gave him increased popularity. There, we find a great romantic song called Lover. The accompanying video tells the story of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan while his husband waits at home. It stars servicemen who were discharged specifically under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. It's great, just watch it.

Here it is:

In 2010, a song that was specifically anti-Don't Ask, Don't Tell was released, in collaboration with Matt Alber. The song is This is Who We Are. Here's the video:

In 2011, Tom released You Know That I Love You. The video of the song documented his marriage ceremony.
Here it is:

In 2013 he released Bears, which turned out to be his most popular song. It's his hymn to this particular group of gay people, who are definitely his cup of tea, which is great. The lyrics go:

Some people think they got it right
They tell me just what I will like
A tight waste, a smooth face, their leaks 48
But they don't know me.

Let's dance with the best of me
said bears were my fantasy
Said bears is what I like,
You were all night, all right
Bears don't discriminate
I think I can .. and navigate
steal my heart and let it ..
All night, all right.

I won't explain why it's what I like
And know you can't take me, I want you tonight
It takes some attitude to rock this bed
And you ain't got none.

The video:

In 2014, he contributed three songs to and appeared in gay-themed murder mystery Out to Kill. There, he sang in character, as "Justin James". You Don't Know How Hard was one of the songs, the dance/electro beat a big departure from Goss' previous acoustic work.

The video:

Goss then released his fifth album, Wait and the first single off of Wait was Illuminate The Dark. The accompanying video features wounded war vet turned model, Alex Minsky. Some of the lyrics:

So it's true it's not forever.
Cause our bones will fall apart.
So let's take the time we have to shine,
Illuminate the dark.

Now back in bed,
Another day is spent.
Hand in my hand,
And it's alright again.
It's a simple thing,
How two souls can fit.
Forever lies in this.

The video:

In 2015 came another collaboration with Matt Alber, called Breath And Sound. Since we mentioned him, know that Matt Alber will be featured here tomorrow in more detail.

The video:

Then, a few weeks ago, Tom remade the classic Dusty Springfield hit, Son of a Preacher Man. The video is like a good gay short:

Friday, 29 April 2016

Rostam Batmanglij

Rostam Batmanglij's parents (a publisher and a cookbook author) had escaped Khomeini's Iran, originally fleeing to Paris, France, as did numerous political refugees at the time. His brother Zal was born there, in 1981. Then, in 1983, the family moved to Washington, D.C. A few months later, Rostam was born. Brother Zal is a renowned film director (Sound Of My Voice, The East).

Both brothers are gay. Zal has said: "It's awesome to be part of a gay family. Right now, my brother and I can focus on our work, our creative work, and our parents are part of that."

Rostam majored in music in Columbia University in 2006. There, Vampire Weekend were formed. Rostam produced their first two albums and co-produced the third. He was their keyboard man. He also shared lead vocal and guitar playing, as well as lyric-writing duties, with Ezra Koenig. The others are Chris Baio on bass and Chris Tomson on drums. Rostam left the group in January 2016 to pursue a solo career, although both he and Koenig said that they would continue to collaborate.

Their first album earned great reviews (82% in Metacritic) and went gold in the US and platinum in the UK. Their second album Contra (2010) was equally well received, both by critics (81% in Metacritic), as well as by the public (#1 in Billboard's Top 200 and a gold certification). There, we find the song Diplomat's Son.

Diplomat's Son tells a story familiar to many of us, especially in our formative years: when is the right time to make a move?

"It’s not right but it’s now or never
And if I wait could I ever forgive myself?"

He does make the move and the outcome is bittersweet:

"I know, you’ll say
I’m not doing it right
But this is how I want it

I can’t go back
To how I felt before—

That night I smoked a joint
With my best friend
We found ourselves in bed
When I woke up he was gone

He was a diplomat’s son
It was ‘81"

This is the video, starring a lovely stuffed unicorn: 

A few months earlier, Rostam and friend Wesley Miles (vocalist of Ra Ra Riot) collaborated under the name of Discovery and released an album called LP. In it, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend was included. The lyrics went: "I wanna be your boyfriend, but I don't want anyone to know."

Here's the video:

Earlier this year, Rostam Batmanglij, now a solo artist, recorded Gravity Don't Pull Me. The lyrics go:

"Now it's been so many years
I wish I could say honestly
gravity don't pull me

that feeling coming through my body
a train under my feet
that's hurtling beneath me

and the worst way I ever felt
was from this same boy that I still miss
'cause I messed it up
and it broke my heart

and the worst things I ever did
was to this same boy I couldn't help it
I messed things up
and it broke my heart

now it's been so long I honestly
wish I could see clearly
but the memory still hurts me

if I feel it in the morning
a gentle street that's bustling
underneath my open window

but the worst way...

...and I broke his heart"

The video:

I'm sure that we'll hear much more from Rostam in the years to come. Hopefully he will live up to his promise.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire were formed in Montreal, Canada in 2001 by brothers Win & Will Butler, Win's wife Regine Chassagne and other good musicians. Their debut album, Funeral (in 2004), was critically acclaimed and commercially successful. The three albums that followed also hit critical and commercial pay dirt, making them one of the most prominent bands of our time.

Their 3d album, The Suburbs (2010), contained the song Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). It deals with the feeling that is common among many of us, the desire to leave a restrictive hometown for the freedom of the big city and the possibility to find your own kind and live among them. As the band says:

They heard me singing and they told me to stop
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock
These days my life, I feel it has no purpose
But late at night the feelings swim to the surface

'Cause on the surface the city lights shine
They're calling at me, come and find your kind
Sometimes I wonder if the World's so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
And there's no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights

We rode our bikes to the nearest park
Sat under the swings and kissed in the dark
We shield our eyes from the police lights
We run away, but we don't know why
Black river, your city lights shine
They're screaming at us, we don't need your kind
Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains
And there's no end in sight
I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights

Here's the video:

In their next (and so far latest) album, Reflektor (2013), we find the song We Exist. It would be released in 2014 as the third single from the album.

We Exist conveys a message of self-empowerment and equality. The song was described by Arcade Fire lead singer Win Butler as "about a gay kid talking to his dad" and coming out to his straight father. Introducing the song onstage, Butler also said that "the right to marry anyone you want is a human rights issue." As the lyrics say:

They're down on their knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
Daddy it's fine
I'm used to 'em now
But tell me why they treat me like this?
It's cause we do it like this

Maybe it's true
They're staring at you
When you walk in the room
Tell 'em it's fine
Stare if you like
Just let us through

Let 'em stare, let 'em stare!
If that's all they can do!
But I'd lose my heart
If I turn away from you

Oh Daddy don't turn away
You know that I'm so scared
But will you watch me drown?
You know we're going nowhere
We know that we're young
And no shit we're confused
But will you watch us drown?
What are you so afraid to lose?

Down on my knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
You're down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist

But we exist
We exist
We exist
We exist
Maybe if you hang together
You can make the changes in our hearts
And if you hang together, you can change us
Just where should you start?

Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man) stars in the music video as a transgender woman. Here it is:

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Owen Pallett

A couple of years ago, two guys were nominated for the Best Original Score Oscar for Her, a film by Spike Jonze. They lost to the favorite, Gravity. These guys were fairly unknown to the regular Oscar pundits, but they were well known to lovers of good Pop & Rock music. One was Will Butler of Arcade Fire (more about them tomorrow) and the other was today's subject, Owen Pallett.

Owen, born in Canada/1979, sings, composes and also plays keyboards and the violin. His first two albums (out of four) were released under the name Final Fantasy. All had great reviews, especially the last three. He has collaborated with an impressive number of acts, the most well-known of those being R.E.M., Duran Duran, Taylor Swift, Robbie Williams, Linkin Park, Arcade Fire, Mika, Pet Shop Boys, Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, Grizzly Bear, Diamond Rings, Beirut, Great Lake Swimmers and The Last Shadow Puppets.

He has said of his work: "As far as whether the music I make is gay or queer, yeah, it comes from the fact that I'm gay, but that doesn't mean I'm making music about it." His boyfriend, Patrick Borjal, has also been working as his manager since 2006.

His song He Poos Clouds, from 2006, is about how much less complicated it is to have a virtual boyfriend rather than a real one. But is it? Here are the lyrics:

Lazy, you lazy poet, your words are reckless, and I can't feel it
But hey, hey, all the boys I have ever loved have been digital
I've been a guest, on a screen, or in a book!
I move 'em with my thumbs, I move them with my thumbs
I write his name in nothing, he whispers to the author
That I will be the only one

Escape! Escape! This time, for real!
We fool around in the service lane
He's the only friend I have who doesn't do cocaine
And all the boys I have ever loved have been confidential
Had a broken home, or a seedy past
So I know it's gonna last
And move him with your thumbs, I move him with my thumbs
He needs, he needs my guidance, he needs, he needs my time
Though I am not the only one

He swam! To the edge of the wall of the world!
Followed my voice, and he cried
Master! The answer is maybe... Maybe not... Maybe not...
Maybe not! I have goals!
Gotta fulfill the seven prophecies!
Gotta be a friend to grandmother!
Gotta rescue Michael from the White Witch!
Gotta find and kill my shadow self
Gotta dig up every secret seashell
You may have been made for love...
But I'm just made.

Here's the video:

From 2014, Infernal Fantasy deals with the complicated subject of desire. Like Owen says:

Across the overpass it starts to rain.
We leave your father's house enveloped in flames.
Owen where were you to stop the fire?
I know no satisfaction only know desire.
My arms are tender from the summer sun.
Hallucinating as we try to make each other come.
Your silhouette a stuttering of tracers.
The rising flame reflects across our faces.

The mind is merciful in its ignorance,
For if we correlated all it contents
We'd give our bodies over to a fire
That knows no satisfaction only knows desire.

Here's the video: