Only a gender-queer siren like k.d. lang can coo a line like "I'll be your daddy" -- as she does on the opening track of her latest album, Sing it Loud -- and convince the daddiest of gays to drop trow and submit oh-but-for-a-moment. Though I'm a bit biased. In my closeted youth growing up in Mormonville, UT, I hid in my basement trying to mimic her breathy vibrato and figure out the guitar tabs to Ingenue pre-internet. She was my thinly veiled dyke crush while I still clung to the hope of becoming the Great Straight Achievement.
Twenty years later I'm still hot for k.d... but not in that way. It's her shapeshifter voice that sends me -- sliding from crystalline to smoky tones, with bewildering control. With the latest, Sing it Loud, she has co-written new material with a kick-ass band of Nashville soul survivors, the Siss Boom Bang, and the result is her most dynamic album to date. The key tracks:
"I Confess" This lusty morsel opens the album disguised as a plaintively sweet call for affection, but quickly collapses into a James Bond minor-chord of woeful desperation. Love her "gladly" or else.
"Perfect Word" Recalling her Drag days with pedal-steel atmospherics, this lush, trippy tune is a study in people-pleasing syndrome.
"Sugar Buzz" A moody, heady, bluesy concoction. k.d. gives me the willies with her drugged-out catatonic chorus: "You lift me up...suspended bliss / until I drop." Then, at the end, she loses her shit and wails in the obscene, upper octaves. If Aretha knows what's what, she'll be jealous.
"Inglewood" About a longed-for town of days gone by, this bluegrass hymn heralds a chorus that approaches gospel. A melody so plain and pure it begs repeating.
"Habit of Mind" Ooooh, electric. The track announces itself with just her dry voice and Joe Pisapia's stripped-down electric guitar grumbling the blues like George Harrison's restless lover.
"Heaven" The only cover on the album, penned by Talking Heads, but this time interpreted as a slower, country-fied groove with Cocteau Twins-y vocal wisps.