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Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2009-03-11

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How did an Oscar nomination for best original song elude Bruce Springsteen? The piece The Wrestler from the film of the same name has the New Jersey songwriter at his best. His latest, Working on a Dream, displays the boss's knack at capturing the troubled American spirit. One of the album's shining moments is the harmonica-driven "Good Eye." Also included here as a bonus track is the Golden Globe-winning number "The Wrestler." Working on a Dream is out now on Columbia. Springsteen is currently on tour with the E Street Band with a stop at The United Center, 1901 W. Madison, on Tuesday, May 12.

British tabloid fixture Lily Allen follows up her debut, Alright, Still, with the much anticipated It's Not Me, It's You. On this top 10 album, the "Smile" singer continues to collaborate with Greg Kurstin ( the bird and the bee ) . But this time around, Allen opts for him to be the sole producer. Never mind her light voice; beware of Allen's razor-sharp tongue as she combines wit with acute observations. There is no chance misinterpreting the cutesy "Fuck You" and the ode to her often-absent father, "He Wasn't There," which has jazz undertones. This sophomore effort is highlighted by the energetic opener "Everyone's at It" and the lead single "The Fear," both of which are welcome turns to electronic leanings. Allen is slated to take to the stage at The Riviera, 4750 N. Broadway, on Sunday, April 12, with Natalie Portman's Shaved Head opening.

Certain venues allow an intimacy with an artist, whereby storytelling comes easy. One such place is The Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, and Bob Mould ( Photo by Noah Kalina ) will be there on Sunday, March 29, with an acoustic set. Mould has such a rich history with music, approaching the 30-year anniversary that his former band Husker Du first took to the stage. The former Sugar frontman is touring to promote the rock-heavy Life and Times, due April 7. Here, his ninth solo album, Mould makes all self-proclaimed punk acts step back to hail his talent on Argos. The out artist is back to rock 'n roll basics, as heard on "MM 17," "Spiraling Down" and the exceptional "Bad Blood Better." Also, Mould is co-writing his autobiography with Michael Azerrad to be published by Little, Brown and Company next year.

British duo The Ting Tings caused quite a stir last summer with a buzz-worthy performance at Lollapalooza. The easy-on-the-eyes pair consists of Katie White on vocals and guitar and Jules De Martino on drums and vocals. Returning to Chicago with a sold-out show at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, on Sunday, April 5, the Ting Tings has taken to the airwaves with its quirky alternative pop ditties. Eighties favorites "My Sharona" meets "Mickey" on the infectious "That's Not My Name" and Chic's trademark riff inspires "Shut up and Let Me Go." Both are from The Ting Tings's debut, We Started Nothing.

Another one of the highlights from last year's Lollapalooza was seeing a sea of people enjoy Bloc Party's set. This British queer-fronted quartet is back stateside touring again with a date at The Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, on Saturday, March 28. The group's third outing, Intimacy, shows the band is not just straight-up stadium rock by offering the experimental Biko and intimate Signs.

Last year Canadian blues-rock duo The Pack A.D. ( pictured ) delivered an intensely riveting concert, even though vocalist and guitarist Becky Black was battling a cold. Drummer Maya Miller kept both beat and bassline magnificently, as Black played the six-string as if from the White Stripes and Johnny Lee Hooker school of blues and simultaneously wailing like a coherent Janis Joplin. The pair's sophomore venture, Funeral Mixtape Vol. 1, shows great strides since its predecessor thanks to the outstanding "Shiny Things" and the epic "Making Gestures." On top of SXSW commitments, the Pack A.D. has a new album in the works and will be headlining at The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, on Sunday, March 29.

Last month Rob Nicholas opened for Kirsten Price. This Chicagoan filled the packed hall with his warm, accessible sound, coming across as such grounded acts as Hootie and the Blowfish and Crosby, Still and Nash. During his set, Nicholas introduced promising new material from his forthcoming EP. Nicholas will be at The Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, Thursday, March 19. For more information, please visit myspace.com/robnicholasmusic.

Canadian songbird Sarah McLachlan has an impressive catalog and will be canonized forever more as the founder of The Lilith Fair Tour. In 2008 the "Possession" singer issued her first hits retrospective and released a limited edition of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. On Wednesday, March 25, The Ladies of the Canyon Presents will tip its hat to McLachlan with a tribute concert at Fitzgerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn. In November, after a night of celebrating Pat Benatar's contributions to the industry, Ingrid Graudins sang a stirring version of McLachlan's Angel as a precursor to the outfit's next honoree. The Ladies of the Canyon Presents showcase features talented Chicago-based female singer-songwriters, who convivially salute the great women of music. For more information, please visit myspace.com/lotcchicago.


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