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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2012-11-07

This article shared 2149 times since Wed Nov 7, 2012
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Melissa Etheridge returns with 4th Street Feeling, her most cohesive album since 1993's multi-platinum coming-out collection, Yes I Am. On 4th Street Feeling, the newly single musician captures the essence of a restless soul travelling. The breast-cancer survivor does not make herself out to be a perfect angel, though.

On the opening track, "Kansas City," the Grammy and Oscar winner paints a picture with the particularly poignant lyrics, "I met a man in a diner outside Hayes / He said marriage brought him there / It was divorce that made him stay." "Falling Up" is a very pop effort that offers a strong contrast to its successor, the bluesy rocker "Shout Now." "A Sacred Heart" is a big show-stopper, while "I Can Wait" is a sweet love song and "Rock and Roll Me" is intended for a slow dance. Etheridge takes to the stage on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St.

Also on Saturday, Nov. 10, Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra will have a sold-out show at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St. Theatre Is Evil is the bisexual artist's second solo album. "Do It with a Rockstar" offers an '80s-alternative inspired punch, while "Want It Back" and "Lost" revisit the quirkiness of Palmer's days as half of The Dresden Dolls, which can be likened to Tori Amos meets Laurie Anderson. The verses are spoken on "Grown Man Cry," which really should come with its own serving of absinthe. I am partial to the quieter, less manic moments, as heard on "Bottomfeeder," "The Bed Song" and "Berlin." Palmer raised more than $1.1 million on Kickstarter to fund this album.

Kylie Minogue is best known for her electronic dance-pop ditties like "Can't Get You out of My Head," "Love at First Sight" and "All the Lovers." On Abbey Road Sessions, she replaces her usual slick, synthesized production for a more mature, organic feel with strings and live instruments as she revisits her catalog.

This is a natural transition for Minogue. During her celebrated, elaborate tours, the pop star has been known to rearrange some of her songs to keep them fresh. The collection's cabaret version of the smash "Better the Devil You Know" recalls the rendition from On a Night Like This Tour. Also, the original takes of her previous international hits "2 Hearts" and "Tears on My Pillow" hint at the aesthetic on Abbey Road Sessions. "I Believe in You," "Finer Feelings" and "Slow" translate very well here too, even though these remakes are not as drastic compared to the jaw-dropping, yet impressive overhaul on "Come into My World." She continues to embody the goddess of love persona with the lead single, "Flower." Nick Cave joins Minogue for a new spin on their murderous ode, "Where the Wild Roses Grow." Abbey Road Sessions also finds Minogue's voice, which does not need to be reprocessed—unlike her counterparts'.

Earlier this year, Bettye LaVette's performance at Old Town School of Folk Music wowed me. She engaged the audience with her stories about her often-derailed career and her magnificent interpretations of material spanning greats like The Who, Beatles, Sinead O'Connor and Dolly Parton.

Her latest, Thankful N' Thoughtful, is out now. Here, LaVette puts her signature vocal delivery on classics that seem to be hand-plucked for her, such as Savoy Brown's "I'm Tired" and two takes on Rod Stewart's "Dirty Old Town." "Old" shows off LaVette's heavy-hearted, aching voice. She even has a go with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" by slowing it down and giving it an old-school R&B makeover.

LaVette will be at City Winery Chicago, 1200 W. Randolph St., on Friday, Nov. 9, and Sat., Nov. 10. To mark her 50th year in show business, LaVette released her autobiography, A Woman Like Me, via Blue Rider Press, which David Ritz co-wrote.

Toronto's Diamond Rings avoids the sophomore slump with the well-polished Free Dimensional. Here, openly gay frontman John O. showcases his deep voice, which caught me off guard, especially on "Everything Speaks" and "Put Me On." "All the Time" and "Runaway Love" shine brightly on this set and offer crossover potential. The influence from the '80s is undeniable. "Hand over My Heart" comes across as a lost collaboration between Human League and Howard Jones. Inspired by Eurythmics' Touch era, "I'm Just Me" is cool electro-pop with an irresistible double clap. "I Know What I'm Made Of" makes me smile with its Culture Club reference by having "kissing to be clever" in the lyrics. Diamond Rings toured with Robyn to promote the debut album, Special Affections. Free Dimensional is out now via Astralwerks.

Prolific singer-songwriter Aimee Mann has a two-night stay at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., starting Wed., Nov. 14. Her latest undertaking, Charmer, is out now on her label, SuperEgo Records. The melancholy feel on "Slip and Roll" is an attention-getter, especially when surrounded by the solid, more up-tempo tracks "Living a Lie" and "Gumby." "Gamma Ray" has a tambourine and guitar riffs that compliment the number wonderfully. Mann summons the spirit of Lucinda Williams on the beautiful "Barfly." The video for "Labrador" is hilarious, as it is a camp, take-for-take remake of "Voices Carry," the top 10 hit for Mann's former band 'Til Tuesday.


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