Rob Townsend doesn’t want you to call him a singer-songwriter because that “bums him out.” And while his songs do have a bit of a troubadour vibe, the music itself is much more expansive, from the giddy, ebullient “Feel That Way” to the sly soul of “Wherever You Go”—both from his new release, How To (Make an Album in 14 Days), released today. Or the skulking, Prince-esque pop of last year’s breakout gay anthem, “Skinny Boys.”
Incisive horn stabs and gritty, funk-inflected guitars abound, and there’s far more R&B, soul, and gospel influence here than precious folky textures. The arrangements are anchored by skillful—not-too-slick—production and Townsend’s exuberant vocals, which are at turns brash and sultry, with more than a little kitsch and wink-and-nod innuendo. It’s clever, catchy stuff.
Born Rob Teter, Townsend (his middle name) got started as the teenage vocalist for a successful Austin-based Americana band, The Belleville Outfit (they were nominated for an Americana Music Association award in 2009). But in 2011, he moved to New York, came out, and began penning songs more representative of the LGBT community, in all its mutifariousness and vibrancy.
As he told NPR’s Elise Hu earlier this summer, the new record is, at least in part, a reflection of living in New York, a city that “vibrates with quite a different pulse” than the scenes which nurtured his earlier material.
Here are three of Townsend’s tunes to jump-start your weekend.