Sound Check: March 2008


It’s almost the end of
winter, so artists are coming out — literally. Sia and Missy Higgins recently
joined our queer music canon, and out guitarist Kaki King is releasing her new
album, Dreaming of Revenge, this
month (look for an interview with her soon). In this edition of Sound Check, I
review Sia’s live show as well as new releases from punk rockers the Shondes
and folksinger Ellis.

Live Onstage

singer-songwriter Sia (pictured left) was in Chicago
for two days during her tour in support of her latest album, Some People Have Real Problems. She stopped
at Borders bookstore on Feb. 28 for an in-store performance, donning a long,
men’s style button-down shirt and rainbow scarf that a fan had given her a few
nights prior.

"Does anyone need
anything?" she cheerily asked the crowd, who remained seated on the floor
for Sia’s mellow set. Even with a full band, her music is low-key pop, but it’s
through live performance that her vocals are best experienced. Her smooth voice
flew flawlessly from note to note, and her runs rivaled those of any jazz or
soul songstress.

Sia started her set with "Little
Black Sandals," a groovy, repetitive song about walking away from a tired
old romance, and ended with "Breathe Me," the hit single from her
previous album, Lady Croissant. With
time for only a handful of tracks, Sia obliged an audience member with a
request by telling him she’d play it at her concert the following night,
promising it would be much more dramatic in a larger, dark venue.

Nonetheless, the audience
was pleased with what they received for free in the downtown bookstore, and they
lined up eagerly to get their CDs signed and photos taken with Sia.

Later that night and
across town, Le Tigre offshoot MEN were deejaying at Sonotheque. Hoping for a
performance of some kind, attendees were disappointed by the lack of anything
more than a sighting of J.D. Samson and Johanna Fateman. They wandered in and
out of the DJ booth, playing hits from the 1990s like "Tootsie Roll"
and some mainstream hip-hop, but failed to do much more.

J.D. Samson (left) and Johanna Fateman of MEN

Samson, who also deejays solo
as DJ J.D., has been rumored to be Sia’s love interest, but there was no
sighting of Sia at the show even though she was in town on the same night.

Releases Reviewed

Queer quartet the Shondes have a Jewish edge to their dark punk rock, and though that might sound odd, it
actually works. On the band’s debut album, The
Red Sea
, they sing political songs about New York City
and their home borough of Brooklyn, as well as
about high expectations for love and life. Fans of Sleater-Kinney will swoon
over the Shondes, especially with vocalist Louisa Solomon’s Corin Tucker–like
croons about socially conscious living.

The violin on songs such as "Your
Monster" gives an extra punch to the art pieces, and The Red Sea is an album that, despite its innate queerness and
feminist, riot-grrl leanings, could surely cross over into other areas of indie
rock. Luckily, those factors are an added bonus for queers who enjoy radical
punk rock.

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