By Mikala Hughes
So, dearest readers, my beloved month of June has come and gone, and with it the month of Pride has nestled back into its 11-month slumber. It’s a little late, I know—I suck. The San Francisco Pride Parade also happens to fall on the weekend of my birthday like clockwork every year, and I can’t help but to cover myself in feathers and glitter and dance through the crowds of smiling, loving people in celebration of Pride, of life, and most of all, of love in all it’s hues. With that said, I have a pretty good excuse, so don’t go getting your panties in a twist (unless you like that sort of thing). I wanted to make a lengthy and ridiculously all-inclusive list of every fabulously out-and-proud individual with a band of mention, with acts like Antony and the Johnsons, the Scissor Sisters, Magnetic Fields, Xiu Xiu, and Rufus Wainwright adding to the fruit bowl, but decided in the end to shorten it to just a few of my top faves in honor of the month of Pride.
Bianca Casady of CocoRosie
The first time I heard CocoRosie’s tracks “By Your Side” and “Noah’s Ark”, I found the vocals a bit strange and I didn’t quite know what to make of them, but regardless I found myself drawn-in and captured by the melodies. Now, several years later, I love both members of CocoRosie to death. Formed in 2003 by sisters Bianca “Coco” and Sierra “Rosie” Casady, the story of their lives both individually and separately would take ages to delve into respectfully, so for now I won’t go there. Musically, their style is completely eclectic, and their vocals range from childish and shaky-edge to operatic and haunting, to something more akin to a gangster rap. It’s for this reason I had the hardest time deciding on which song to showcase. It didn’t help one bit that they are both genuinely amazing lyricists (note the lyrics for their track “Werewolf”, which has a number of great dubstep remixes floating around; breathtaking). Up for debate were also the tracks “God Has a Voice” and “Fairy paradise”, the music video for which is performed live in the middle of a random park with unsuspecting bystander’s lounging on benches and in the grass while Sierra plays the harp, Bianca sings, and some dude beat boxes. I settled on “Rainbowarriors” for the sake of the theme of this article. Note that Bianca is notorious for drawing on a mustache; I love her.
Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend and Discovery
I just love what Rostam is capable of. The member of 2 fantastic groups (the first of which is the band Discovery, whom I’ve written a piece on already), he’s a multi-instrumentalist whose parents originated from Iran and who settled in New York, where he met the members of the alternate group he is apart of known as Vampire Weekend. Popularized originally by the track “Holiday,” Vampire Weekend was formed in 2008, and released their most recent album in 2010 called “Contra”. On that album, Rostam is responsible for co-writing the lyrics to the tune “Diplomat’s Son.” It’s a real pleasure to listen to, so do yourself the favor and hit play.
Brad Fordcox of Deerhunter
Deerhunter is a post-punk, shoe-gaze, indie-rock band formed in 2001 and headed by vocalist and drummer/keyboardist Brad Fordcox. Generally dreamy and often lo-fi, I can’t resist the opportunity to place them on this list for Fordcox‘s lovely vocals alone.
Khaela Maricich of The Blow
I’ve previously touched on The Blow for the song “The Love That I Crave,” and now I’m bringing them back with the track “True Affection.” I’d always had the slightest of inklings that singer Khaela Maricich swung my way, particularly when I heard the track “Come On Petunia” which repeatedly manipulates the words to that old Police song “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” but it wasn’t until I really searched into the matter that I sighed with relief at the confirmation that my gaydar was still in-tact. I’m pleased to say she makes it to this list.
Edward Droste of Grizzly Bear
“Knife” was the first song I ever heard by Grizzly Bear, and at the time my gaydar was definitely sleeping, or staring off mindlessly drooling and unaware, because I had no idea. It’s not the first place my mind goes to, wondering who is and who isn’t. Music isn’t like that; it’s transcendent and liberating and in a million shades of gray. But boy was I pleased to add them to this list due to Grizzly Bear‘s vocalist Edward Droste. A Brooklyn-based indie rock back, they’re not for everyone. But then, who is? The video for this song is unsettling and a little creepy, so of course I can’t get enough. Love, love, love.
Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson of Sigur Ros and Jónsi
Jónsi is just beautiful. I’ve loved his first well-known band Sigur Ros for many, many years, perhaps since I was as young as 13 or 14, though I could be remembering wrong. Images of the end-scene to the film Vanilla Sky (which played out to the tune of a Sigur Ros song) come to mind, with Tom Cruise teetering over the edge of a building and then jumping off into oblivion, the wind in his hair and a deep desire for freedom in his heart. Jónsi has come a long way from those days, and his music style has definitely progressed. I can’t express to you the look on my face when I found out that he was living out of the closet and somehow the news had evaded me; it was priceless, I assure you. I couldn’t even begin to choose an adequate song to display the full range and beauty of him, so I just resigned to not scratching the surface and picked blindly. Interesting tidbit, one of the most interesting things about him is that, in his early band Sigur Ros, not only did he sing in his native tongue of Icelandic, but some of the time he was singing in no particular language at all, but a mumbo-jumbo language he created, using his voice more as an instrument in itself. Forever the innovator. If you like the song, check out some his accoustic offerings, such as “Tornado” and “Go Do” off of his self-titled albums under the name Jónsi. They’re so raw and glittery.
Kele Okereke of Bloc Party
From their older material to their newer stuff, Bloc Party is just all-around good stuff. They range from deep and dark, angsty and pleading (see songs like “Skeleton” and “Octopus”), to buoyant and light-hearted, dance-y and carefree (such as “I Still Remember” and “This Modern Love”). Singer Kele Okereke is out and doesn’t mind who knows. He’s fabulous.
Jake Shears and Del Marquis of Scissor Sisters
Frontman Jake Shears along with Del Marquis of Scissor Sisters is openly gay and I love them for it. Inspired by the gay nightclub scene of New York, their tunes are dance-friendly and fun to listen to.
Thao and Mirah
Mirah has such a soft, small voice for such a big heart. Mirah will forever have a place within me for songs like “Don’t Die In Me” and “The Dogs of B.A.” When I discovered that Mirah teamed up with Thao Nguyen to form the duo Thao and Mirah, my heart was forever held captive. Writing pieces of their own, as both play guitar and sing wonderfully, they’ve also covered tracks such as Pat Benetar‘s “Love Is A Battlefield” and Salt-n-Pepa‘s “Push It” for the television show Portlandia’s tour. While Mirah is out of the closet, it remains nebulous as to Thao‘s standing, however it’s been hinted that she is less than the perfect poster-child for heterosexuality. Whatever the case may be, I love the artistic chemistry between them. “Little Cup” is a somber little folksy tune that picks up pace towards the end of the song. If you like it, don’t be shy and delve into the rest of what they have to offer.
Here’s to love and the freedom to love.