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Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2009-02-25

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Annie Lennox beams in her latest video, "Shining Light." This remake of Ash's 2001 U.K. hit is one of two new songs on the recently released compilation The Annie Lennox Collection. In this clip, there are five different Lennoxes forming a band, resembling the video to "Head over Heels" by the Go-Gos. The drummer recalls the "Why" vocalist's look in the '70s when she fronted The Tourists. The characters on keyboards and singing are the most at ease. The Grammy-winning humanitarian shies away from playing instruments in her videos, save the flute in early Eurythmics clips and the guitar in "Sex Crime ( 1984 ) ." Usually partial to melancholy, Lennox has not been this upbeat since "Precious" and "Little Bird" on her 1992 solo debut, Diva—both of which are also on her retrospective.

New York-based Telling on Trixie returns with its sophomore effort, Ugly, Broke & Sober. This solid 10-song set is financed by fans courtesy of the Web site A Band with a Plan. Not just seeking monetary aid, the band's direct connection allows external input. "Crash Me Up" features words submitted to be integrated into the track. Ugly, Broke & Sober opens with the high-octane guitar-based rocker "Shooting in 60." The scrumptious "A.N.F.O." follows suit. One of the standout tracks is the midtempo "Late So Tired." Openly gay singer Derek Nicoletto's booming voice perfectly suits a rock treatment of Belinda Carlisle's '80s pop gem "Mad about You." While the whole album would translate extremely well into a live setting, "Mad about You" would be the ultimate crowd-pleaser at a concert. Ugly, Broke & Sober is due out March 24. The quintet will take to the stage at Sylvie's, 1902 W. Irving Park, on Saturday, March 14. Telling on Trixie's videos to "Orion's Light" and "Halfway to Sane" were fixtures on Logo's Click List.

I suspect that there are anti-aging ingredients secretly included on Plushgun's full-length debut, Pins and Panzers. After listening to it, I felt like I shed years and was a carefree 20-year-old once again. This Brooklyn act offers DIY electro-pop at its finest on "Just Impolite." Try not to sing along with its lyric "I walk the line like Johnny Cash." There is a certain passion with the lines "as we dance the night away" and "boys kissing boys in the moment when the cops came" on the opener, "Dancing in a Minefield." How We Roll sums up the essence on this tale of high school days and youth. Both How We Roll and Let Me Kiss You Now ( And I Will Fade Away ) have the ever so infectious double clap to keep the beat and to up the so-sugary-it-is-potentially-diabetic-factor. Kiss You Now also boasts some great wistful scatting. With Postal Service is out of the spotlight, Plushgun is stepping up as a buzzworthy DYI indie electro-pop outfit. Plushgun's Pins and Panzers is out now on Tommy Boy Records.

Dark, twisted, tattooed and with guyliner, Aiden frontman Wil Francis unveils his omnisexual persona, William Control. Out now via Victory Records, Control's debut, Hate Culture, broodingly dwells on mortality. The bow's sound is stronger and more cohesive than Aiden's, giving nods to the godfather of goth, Trent Reznor, and Marilyn Manson without dwelling on the latter's gratuitous shock value. The lead single, "Beautiful Loser," sums up Francis's alter ego's last day on earth, set to a KMFDM soundtrack. Put down your Anne Rice novels, bust out your favorite black T-shirt and lace up those Doc Martens—Control is slated to perform with Escape the Fate at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, on Sunday, March 1.

East Coast singer-songwriter Dan Monjovi has a knack for penning pop pleasures, coming across as a hybrid of Elton John, Dave Matthews and Kenny Loggins. On his sophomore effort, Woke up This Morning, the out recording artist pines for respect and fulfillment through fame on Celebrity. Considering today's economic climate and the hopefulness surrounding President Obama, "Things'll Get Better" captures some much-needed optimism. "Is Anybody Watching?," another one of this album's highlights, presents a social critique masked with a great sing-along quality. Woke up This Morning, which topped the Out Voice Network Top 10, is available now.

Chicagoan Susan Werner is back with Classics, where she interprets favorites from the '60s and '70s, set to chamber music. Here, Werner is accompanied by Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston Pops instrumentalists as beloved pop songs fuse with classical compositions. Werner is in fine form singing Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me ( The Ecology ) " and Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed." With a catalog remarkably balancing jazz and folk, I was curious what this ever-evolving artist's next project would be. Her 2007 The Gospel Truth tackles religious thoughts and last year she released the live album Club Passim. With a heavy tour schedule, this singer-songwriter is a delight to see live. Werner will be performing with Anais Mitchell on Saturday, March 7, at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln.

Unfortunately, BETTY cancelled its upcoming concert, which was scheduled to take place on Sunday, March 8, at the Old Town School of Folk Music.


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