10 Albums for Pride month

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10 Pride Month Albums

Since we started posting weekly Top Ten lists a couple years ago, we’ve covered a lot of ground.  We’ve done lists organized by genre, location and record label, and we’ve followed down a variety of nerdier rabbit holes on a few weeks as well. But this time around we decided to highlight albums that have a different kind of intimate connection to one another. As Pride Month slowly comes to a close, we’re highlighting albums that have contributed to the conversation regarding LGBTQ culture in some way. It’s true that we still have a ways to go until true equality can be reached; still, the albums here have made significant leaps in terms of artistically representing the culture and experience of individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisesxual, transexual, or queer. There were quite a few nominations this time around, but we managed to whittle them down to a core group.  Here they are: 10 Pride Month albums.

Bronski Beat Age of ConsentBronski Beat – The Age of Consent
(1984; London)

His name was Jimmy Somerville, and for a time he sounded like the loneliest person in pop music. As the falsetto voice of Bronski Beat for one album, he was one of the very few “out” front men of his time (in fact the whole band was, rarer still). On The Age Of Consent Somerville worked within the parameters of very mechanical music to bring about a story of a man already pre-emptively weary from dealing with the crass limits of humanity. It wasn’t just his frustration with the lack of acceptance of his identity, either: In the bowels of the Thatcher years it also came from commercial obedience (“Love And Money”) and good ole dependable militarism (“No More War”). But every vituperative outside force feeds back into Somerville’s plight, and The Age Of Consent offers only token respite with its Gershwin and Giorgio Moroder covers, before it’s back to the unanswered question “Why?” and “Small Town Boy,” still one of synth-pop’s most heartbreaking moments. — PP

Husker Du - Zen ArcadeHüsker Dü – Zen Arcade
(1984; SST)

If there were ever an award for the most badass gay male on the planet, special consideration would have to be given to Bob Mould: Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade is one of the most energetic, daring, and flat-out insane records ever put to tape. With this record, Mould and the gang decided to hone their frustration in order to create 23 tracks of avant-garde punk bliss. “Something I Learned Today” and “Never Talking To You Again” are two punk blueprints and excellent songs that grab the listener with ease, while the closing mammoth “Reoccurring Dreams” shows off the band’s off-kilter noise experimentation. The lyrics here scream anger, angst, and indifference, but it’s all executed in a way that demands to be taken seriously. Thirty years later, Zen Arcade is still a force to be reckoned with, and will be still for years to come. – GS

God is my Co-Pilot - Get BusyGod is My Co-PilotGet Busy
(1998; Atavistic)

Any album by this prolific NYC queercore act would have a home on this list, so we went with their last proper album, 1998’s Get Busy. The record embodies all the qualities that made God is My Co-Pilot such a wild and forward-thinking punk act. Noisy, avant garde compositions? Check. Multiple pieces written in foreign languages? Yes. Unrestrained commentary on the sexist and homophobic tendencies of rock and punk culture? Absolutely. In their own words, the act always set out to use rock (“the language of sexism”) to express their own ideas of gender and sexuality. On Get Busy, the wild ride it is, that’s exactly what they do. – ATB

Le Tigre Feminist SweepstakesLe TigreFeminist Sweepstakes
(2001; Mr. Lady)

After the break-up of Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna formed the electro-punk trio Le Tigre, which provided a more humorous, cheeky and danceable counterpoint to her former band’s more aggressive punk sound. But the politics stayed a crucial part of the equation. As you might have been able to tell from the title, Feminist Sweepstakes is an album that deals heavily in feminism and women’s issues, but it’s also the first album of theirs to feature the contributions of JD Samson, who previously served as the group’s projectionist and later carved a path of her own with MEN. The resulting mix is an album of danceable left-wing political jams “for the ladies and the fags, yeah,” as opening track “LT Tour Theme” goes. Getting the fuck down never felt so revolutionary. – JT

Antony and the Johnsons I am a bird nowAntony & The JohnsonsI Am A Bird Now
(2005; Secretly Canadian)

Antony Hegarty has an entrancing voice; an intense and delicate siren that is impossible to ignore or let drift into the background. That unmistakable croon is the perfect vehicle to deliver the poetry found on 2005’s I Am a Bird Now. Armed with a piano and a quiet-yet-dynamic backing band, Hegarty expresses personal grief and depression ten-fold, but there’s a much more universal struggle at work here. With assistance from some very heavy players (Boy George, Lou Reed, Joan Wasser, Devendra Banhart, Rufus Wainwright) Hegarty encounters issues of identity, gender, and sexuality with a grace that encapsulates the careful balance between the pain of wanting to fly away paired with the freedom of realizing what you might want out of life. – ATB

Hercules and Love AffairHercules and Love AffairHercules and Love Affair
(2008; DFA)

No one person’s experience is the same as anyone else. That much we can agree on, though it’s where we find common interest that we relate. And unless you’re from the fictional Footloose town of Bomont, then that common interest very likely could be dancing. And New York’s Andy Butler makes danceable ditties his top priority on his outstanding nu-disco DFA debut as Hercules and Love Affair. In doing so, Butler assembles a diverse cast of gay, lesbian and transgender vocalists to bring people together in the name of some of the sweetest funk and house sounds to come out of New York in decades. From a distance, Hercules and Love Affair might speak to some stereotypical representation of gay culture: disco, Greek gods, etc. But get a little closer and you’ll find that beneath the sultry, sweaty grooves, everything here speaks to feelings that are actually universal. – JT

Le1f Dark YorkLe1fDark York
(2012; Greedhead)

Khalif Diouf first made a name for himself producing some killer beats for Das Racist. But his true breakthrough was Dark York, the first mixtape put out under the name Le1f. As an MC, Diouf covers some strange territory. His glitchy production and forward vocal execution bring to mind the likes of Cities Aviv or RATKING. Lyrically, however, Le1f is in a realm of his own, combining gritty hip-hop imagery with references to queer culture and drag balls. While Frank Ocean might deserve credit for releasing the first charting hip-hop/R&B track to address LGBTQ issues, Le1f definitely claims the trophy when it comes to bringing queer-centric hip hop into the view of mainstream critics and audiences. Sidenote: I know I’m not the only one who gets the feeling that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were ‘heavily inspired’ by the beat on “Wut”. – ATB

Blood Orange - Cupid DeluxeBlood OrangeCupid Deluxe
(2013; Domino)

Cupid Deluxe is not quite as straightforward as some of the other albums on this list. For his second LP under the Blood Orange moniker, producer Dev Hynes set out to create a score for his life in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but landed on a much more universal soundtrack than all that. This jazz-pop masterpiece perfectly emphasizes transition and change; the beauty and struggle found in the inevitable flow of life. Take “You’re Not Good Enough” and “Always Let You Down” for example, two songs that play off opposite sides of the same spectrum: Emotional progress and the pursuit for something better, or at least a life that better fits the narrator’s individuality. It’s a rabbit hole of an album; a journey more than worth getting lost in. – ATB

Against-me-transgender-dysphoria-bluesAgainst Me!Transgender Dysphoria Blues
(2014; Total Treble/Xtra Mile)

That Netflix show you really like? The title’s a lie; in reality, transgender is the new black. With a surge in America’s political acceptance of homosexuality comes the search for what’s next, and it feels like that is wider social acceptance of shifting gender identity and physical form. For a long time transgender tales in music were merely hinted at by sympathetic artists (David Bowie), told from a distance by observers (The Kinks), or smothered in drag (RuPaul). Important first-person bards of the transgender experience long seemed on the fringe of the fringe—Genesis P. Orridge, Amanda Lepore—but the smart barroom punk of Against Me! occupies a welcoming time and space, where Laverne Cox lands on the cover of Time and British TV peppers trans characters through critically acclaimed shows. The lead singer formerly known as Tom Gabel forced the public’s hand, announcing and beginning her transition to Laura Jane Grace at the height of her band’s success. True identity and new album Transgender Dysphoria Blues at the ready, Against Me! heralded 2014 like a baby screaming at birth. On the LP, Grace and her friends rage against fruitless nights on the prowl, snickering and sneering hate, and cis and trans citizens hiding in plain sight—shit, they cover all that ground in the first three minutes of the title track. It’s a short, sharp shock of an album that might be considered a year’s-best candidate on sonic intensity alone. With the weight of the band’s words we have a worthy bookend to Lou Reed’s Transformer. That was likely the first mainstream album to fully and freely acknowledge the fluidity of gender; Transgender Dysphoria Blues feels relieved and brave enough to both revel in it and expose some harsh truths that come with it. – AB

The Soft Pink TruthThe Soft Pink TruthWhy Do the Heathen Rage?
(2014; Thrill Jockey)

Art is challenging. Not just to our routines, or our expectations, but often to the very values that define who we are. And when we happen to love music made by people who don’t always share our values, that presents another challenge in itself. The Soft Pink Truth’s Drew Daniel — who also performs as half of electronic duo Matmos — is both gay and a black metal fan, and those two characteristics are seemingly in conflict with each other, at least when it comes to some of the more hateful misanthropy associated with the Norwegian scene of the early ’90s. Not that Daniel lets it stop him; on Why Do the Heathen Rage?, he picks a sampling of his favorite black metal anthems, backs them up with a variety of different electronic beat styles, and turns this set of Satanic rituals into a massive dance party. (Plus there are dudes in corpse paint doing sexual things to each other on the cover, so there’s that.) But what Why Do the Heathen Rage? really says in an overarching sense is that who you are and what you like don’t always have to be reconciled — but it’s up to you to engage with it on your own terms. – JT

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View Comment (1)
  • I’d throw in Jayne County’s At The Trucks, not only because County is never given the credit she deserves, but because the album itself is great and carries with it a storied history.

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