British-born singer Tom Aspaul, who has writing credits with megastar Kylie Minogue, producer duo Snakehips and vibe purveyor AlunaGeorge (though Aluna is out on her own and her debut solo album is amazing), is a new gay about town.
Black Country Disco, released in September, marks Aspaul’s first album. And what a triumphant entry!
Black Country Disco gets its name from Black Country, a region of England just west of Birmingham, and disco, the vein of pop that is getting pumped for all it’s worth this year. It’s a wonderfully crafted pop record; everything about it is dance-y, its choruses (at first listen) bringing us back to drunk nights out and lustful post-club adventures and the songwriting adds another dimension to the project holistically.
After a run-through listen, Aspaul’s connection to disco queen Kylie Minogue (who has her 15th (!) studio album coming soon, aptly titled Disco) is immediately apparent. He’s successful at doing what most pop stars invoking disco today have been successful at; harnessing the sound of the 70s and 80s but crafting music that still sounds incredibly modern and now. Further, we get gay storylines, and while there are sexual bops here, Aspaul recounts adversity, tragedy and heartbreak on the majority of the album.
Between a devastating breakup (and that relationship’s decline), the death of a close friend and an overwhelming case of impostor syndrome, Aspaul’s songwriting explores extremely dark places. And yet, for all the gloom, what we hear immediately coaxes us out of our seats and beg us to fashion our bedroom floors, the subway or wherever we are into a dance floor. Like Charli XCX and her contemporaries, or like the 2020 albums from pop titans Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, Aspaul heals his wounds by picking up his broken pieces and assembling dance anthem after dance anthem.
Aspaul, then, falls much more in line with the maximalist dance floor approach of MNEK (the two have actually worked together) than the emo, staring-into-blank-space world inhabited by Troye Sivan. Aspaul’s music still feels novel in comparison to MNEK and Sivan, a disco-infused trip to devastation for us to access his pain, yet soon after, cast it away with a turn of our heels and swing of our hips.
Queer pop, an arena I still need to really delve into, feels very forward-facing and future-focused. (SORRY for the alliteration.) What I like about Black Country Disco is the attention to a familiar sound and the impressive songwriting from someone with a story that feels incredibly relatable in many ways, perhaps most of all his self-doubt.
Aside from MNEK, Sivan and the PC music crowd, how many dance-floor-anthem-crafting gays of note are out there?!
Aspaul, who gives off the sexual energy and literal similar look to American comedian Jordan Firstman, is fun to have around. I look forward to where he takes us next.