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Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2008-01-30

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Ten years ago, a Swedish teenager shattered stereotypes by scoring two top 10 hits with the new-jill swing-pop tunes Do You Know What It Takes and Show Me Love. Still sporting a tomboy haircut, Robyn is making a comeback stateside with more progressive material. Already sold in stores overseas, the pint-sized popstar's electro-flavored self-titled album is due out this March in the United States. Just check out the video for Konichiwa Bitches, which sports subtitles, to see Robyn close in on Missy Elliott's reign as a supreme female emcee. Also, a cover of Prince's Jack U Off on The Rakamonie EP shows the Swede is ready to shed her teen image. Even her videos have matured—instead of resembling a GAP commercial, her clips are now on par with those by Basement Jaxx and The Bloodhound Gang. The mid-tempo electronic masterpiece With Every Heartbeat, her collaboration with Kleerup, is making a dent on the dance-radio charts after holding the top spot in the United Kingdom this summer. The Rakamonie EP is out now on iTunes.

Cat Power already tackled remakes on 2000's The Covers Record; now Chan Marshall and crew return with another set of renditions on Jukebox. Here, Marshall uses her husky voice over a blues-and-folk sound to salute those who made her want to be a musician, including Billie Holiday's Don't Explain and Bob Dylan's I Believe in You. Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues are slated to perform at The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield, on Sun., Feb. 10. Jukebox is now available via Matador Records.

Concerts coming to Chicago in February are reason enough to end hibernating early. The Indigo Girls show off the 'power of two' on Sat., Feb. 2 at Joilet's Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago, and Mon., Feb. 4, at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn. Mika, the British sensation behind the favorites Love Today, Grace Kelly and Big Girl ( You Are Beautiful ) , is scheduled to take to the stage on Tues., Feb. 5, at the House of Blues. The Flesh Hungry Dog Show presents Devin and the Straights, The Beazley Phillips Band and Cobalt on Fri., Feb. 1, at Jackhammer, 6406 N. Clark.

Also making a stop during a near never-ending tour in the Windy City is Carrie Rodriguez. A follow-up to her solo bow, Seven Angels on a Bicycle, comes out later this year on Manhattan/EMI Records. To tide over fans, Rodriguez and Tim Easton cover Cortez The Killer on Like a Hurricane: A Tribute to Neil Young. This fiddle-playing folk singer can get the line dancers moving on Never Gonna Be Your Bride, then drastically drop the pace with He Ain't Jesus and I Don't Wanna Play House Anymore. Rodriguez will be at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, on Sat., Feb. 16.

As the first artist signed to MySpace Records, Kate Voegele is set to re-release her debut, Don't Look Away. This 21-year-old Cleveland native blends pop and rock here, coming across as a successor to Michelle Branch. Six of her songs can be heard on the episode of One Tree Hill where the newcomer portrays an artist looking to land a record deal. Voegele has a concert scheduled on Sun., Feb. 10, at Schubas.

Former seminary student Tom Goss sings of new life on his latest EP, Rise. This out singer-songwriter's craft draws comparisons to the Beatles ( A Thousand Times Before ) and Rufus Wainwright ( King of Something Right ) . Lyrically, Goss is reminiscent of Crowded House and the overlooked outfit Phaser. Goss's EP Rise is out now via CDBaby and iTunes.

House DJ Abel Aguilera does the honors on Alegria: Universo, the latest in the Alegria series. This double-disc set is split between The Peak Hour Session and The After Sunrise Session. The former relies more on its hypnotic tribal beats, whereas the latter is splashed with delicious diva vocals ( Ultra Nate's Give It All You Got, Rosabel featuring Tamara Wallace's Looking 4 Men ) . Due out Feb. 5, Alegria: Universo captures the spirit of these Brazilian-themed dance parties that take place in New York City.

The female presence in the hip-hop community will be the topic on Thurs., Feb. 7, during the forum for The 3rd Annual Women in Hip Hop. Hosted by The Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College, this program will take place at the school's Conway Center. Chicago will be represented as Aqua Moon & Tha Crew will be performing and participating in a panel. Also on board are Detroit's Invincible and Miami's Soulflower. This event is free and open to the public. For more information please visit www.colum.edu/institutewomengender.

This Mardi Gras, there will be a new way to earn beads through charitable deeds. Taking place on Tues., Feb. 5, at Schubas, six of Chicago's funkiest bands will pay tribute to The Meters, a legendary group from The Big Easy. Proceeds from the evening will benefit The New Orleans Habitat Musicians' Village Project. The line-up includes Bumpus, Chicago Afrobeat Project, the HUE, Abstract Giants, 56 Hope Road and This is Me Smiling. Tickets are $10 and attendees will be treated to a full buffet of Cajun cuisine.


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