A friend asked me to recommend some music to be her soundtrack for an upcoming trip to Iceland. She wanted material that would suit the country's mood, terrain and beauty. Other than the obvious choices like Sigur Ros, Bjork and Amiina, I was quick to suggest John Grant's Pale Green Ghosts, which was recorded in part in Iceland.
Here, the openly gay artist weaves his stories seamlessly between folk and electronic. The haunting title track and its video easily could serve as a murder ballad. The self-defeating "GMF" is a masterpiece, as Grant nonchalantly sings, "I am the greatest mother fucker you're ever going to meet." Skip the set's only misstep, "Sensitive New Age Guy," and go directly to "Ernest Borgnine," Grant's take on living with HIV.
Last year Sinead O'Connor covered Grant's "Queen of Denmark." She lends her celestial vocals for harmonies on "GMF," "It Doesn't Matter to Him" and "Why Don't You Love Me Anymore." Pale Green Ghosts is produced by Grant and Biggi Veira of the Icelandic group Gus Gus.
Expect to see Pale Green Ghosts as one of the year's top picks from many critics. On Thursday, June 27, Grant will be at Schuba's, 3159 N. Southport Ave., with Matt Focht and Crystal Hartford.
The Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots dazzles fans with its feel-good storyline, outlandish costumes and fantastic music. Here, Cyndi Lauper proved she can "Shine" by handling the music and lyrics, while Harvey Fierstein penned the book. The songs keep the story going, show off the cast's talents and have hit-worthy melodies.
The opening number"Price and Son Theme/The Most Beautiful Thing in the World"is big, magnificent and, most importantly, memorable. The showstopper is the power ballad "Not My Father's Son," where the differences between the leads lessen as they spill their hearts over living up to their parents' expectations. There are also traces to funky classics. "Sex Is in the Heel" has a riff that recalls "Disco Inferno;" the back-up singing on "Everybody Say Yeah" reminds me of those from "Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves;" and "Raise You Up / Just Be" has similarities to "September" by Earth Wind and Fire. The original cast recording to Kinky Boots is out now via Masterworks Broadway.
It is a reunion of sorts as Melissa Etheridge comes to Ravinia with Joan Osborne, Paula Cole and Jessie Payo on Saturday, June 29. In 1995, Etheridge was spotlighted on an episode of VH1 Duets, where she was joined by Osborne, Cole, Jewel and Sophie B. Hawkins to collaborate on covers from her catalog. The five remarkable singer-songwriters shared the stage together for a tremendous rendition of Joan Armatrading's "Love and Affection."
Mosquito marks the fourth full-length album from Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Brooklyn-based alternative trio reminds us it can rock with the outstanding "Area 52." The title track is as a perfect sequel to 2009's "Heads Will Roll." Sadly, Mosquito's slower numbers "Subway" and "Wedding Song" do not have the same magic as the predecessors "Runaway" or "Little Shadow." On Saturday, June 29 Yeah Yeah Yeahs share the bill with Bush and Awolnation at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre 19100 Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park.
The loveable twosome She & Him has made another album, Volume 3, showing off its retro-flavored style. Resistance is futile upon hearing the fun "I've Got Your Number, Son" and "Never Wanted Your Love." M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel's quirky personality is bubbling over in the video to "I Could've Been Your Girl." There is an apparent '60 girl group inspiration "Somebody Sweet to Talk To" and "Snow Queen," thus making the cover of Blondie's "Sunday Girl" ever appropriate. She & Him comes to Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence Ave., with Camersa Oscura on Saturday, June 29.
Also on Saturday, June 29, CSS and IO Echo will be at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. CSS, a Brazilian DIY electro-pop outfit, returns with the CD Planta. The female quartet sizzles with cool numbers like "Honey" and "Teenage Tiger Cat." The energetic "Dynamite" features Gossip drummer Hannah Billie. Just try not to snicker over the title on "Frankie Goes to West Hollywood." Planta is out now via SQE Music.
Whenever Susan Werner steps forth with a new project, I marvel at the album's theme and approach. On her latest venture, Hayseed, Werner celebrates growing up in the farmland, as witnessed on "City Kids (The Revenge of Kevin Oberbroeckling)." While "Something to be Said" is an insightful with lessons learned, "Iowa" beams with Midwestern pride. The ode "Egg Money (The Confession of Irene Broghammer)" tells the story of a scorned farmer's wife. On top of coming to City Winery Chicago, 1200 W. Randolph St., on Friday, July 5, Werner also plans to be performing at various local farmers' markets.
The Wavefront 2013 Music Festival dances its way to Montrose Harbor from July 5-7. Four stages will host an array of artists and DJs from the eclectic dance music genre. There will be house music icons like Frankie Knuckles, Danny Tenaglia and Ralphi Rosario. Other draws include Fat Boy Slim, Jacques Lu Cont (a.k.a. Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga and Madonna producer Stuart Price), James Murphy formerly of LCD Soundsystem, Tiefschwarz and Timo Maas. For a complete line-up, schedule and tickets, please visit www.wavefrontmusicfestival.com .