Points about Jay Brannan and this album in no particular order:
1. Let me start by mentioning one of the least important and yet most potentially alienating things about Jay Brannan and his album. He’s a gay man and he sings without pretending to be anything else nor does he mess with playing the pronoun game. He always has been unabashedly honest in his lyrics, as far as I know, and I pray he always will. It is so refreshing and, quite frankly, beautiful to hear a gay musician sing blatantly about his loves and passions without trying to make it more ‘palatable’ for straight listeners. I say this as a straight listener, by the way. If someone has a problem with that, then they shouldn’t buy his music and they should go the heck away.
2. Jay Brannan’s voice isn’t all that strong. He’s not a belter and his range isn’t outrageously awesome (though his high notes are pure and surprising), but he knows that and he doesn’t try to pretend like he’s Sinead O’Connor or Tori Amos or Freddie Mercury. He’s Jay Brannan and he’s got a damn good idea of who that is, and he sings really awesome songs that are exactly just right for his range and voice, with lyrics that hook right into a person’s brain and whisper messages that are both from him and from somewhere outside of him and from somewhere inside each listener. In other words, no, he’s not the most amazeballs vocalist ever, but give the guy a chance. He does what he does, and he does it damn well.
“Sub-normal people do supernatural things.
In a world full of demons with white feathered wings,
I feel like I’m open hearted, but it’s a broken range we’re on.
I know I’m not the only one asking where have all the cowboys gone?
Well can’t one of these cowboys come rescue me?
I need a little bit of rope ‘n’ ride to keep me on my feet.”
Everywhere There’s Statues
3. Jay Brannan’s latest album, produced by…uh, let me see…David Kahne (wow, stellar!) makes the most of the power of backing instrumentation choices to compliment Jay’s vocal limitations. (I actually hate to use that word because I think it doesn’t serve him well and minimizes his talent, but that’s the word that is coming to mind.) A fantastic example is on “Greatest Hits” where strings and drums are used in wonderful, subtle, and not subtle ways to push the emotion in the song that Jay’s voice just isn’t ever going to be able to bring entirely on its own. In other words, the production of this latest album is wonderful, and each song has something special in the production that creates an atmosphere that grows more breathtaking with every listen.
4. Jay Brannan has OTHER ALBUMS and you should buy them all. But if you can’t afford it, I truly recommend his latest for now, and then when you get paid buy the rest. And, yes, the covers album is so incredibly worth it. Buy it, too.
5. And in additional very important but shallow news about Jay Brannan — he is ridiculously cute. See?
So, to sum up, I’ve been obsessing over this album for going on two weeks and I don’t see an end in sight. I enthusiastically recommend it to all and sundry. Go forth! Spend money! Buy music!