Ken Stringfellow | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ken Stringfellow 

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Ken Stringfellow's new Soft Commands (Yep Roc) marks a significant if subtle shift from his last solo effort. 2001's Touched found the silvery-voiced Posies front man hunkered down in producer Mitch Easter's North Carolina studio trying to distill the essence of his old band's decade-long career into a single disc. Soft Commands, written and recorded in a series of globe-trotting sessions that took Stringfellow from Seattle to Stockholm to Senegal, replaces Touched's ambition with a lovelorn simplicity. In a series of exquisite piano-based songs, he taps influences as diverse as the boyish bathos of Brian Wilson ("When U Find Someone"), the Gallic romanticism of Jacques Brel ("Je Vous en Prie"), the baroque melodrama of Scott Walker ("Death of a City"), and the mauve mopery of Gilbert O'Sullivan ("Let Me Do"). Elsewhere Stringfellow seems to be aiming for the fleeting brilliance of Me Decade one hitters like Michael Johnson and Stephen Bishop; songs like "Cyclone Graves," "Any Love (Cassandra et Lune)," and "You Become the Dawn" glitter like 70s FM gold. Following his solo set Stringfellow will launch Schubas' new monthly celebrity DJ series, spinning tunes in the club's upstairs lounge. And on Saturday night the Posies headline at the Wicker Park SummerFest. Officially reunited after a five-year breakup that produced a slew of archival releases, they're putting the final polish on a new studio album for Rykodisc, their first since 1998's Success. It won't come out till next summer, though: Stringfellow's spending the better part of the coming year on the road with R.E.M. David Berkeley opens the Schubas show. $10, 18+. Friday, July 30, 7 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. Stringfellow's DJ set follows at 9:30; it's $2, free with admission to the earlier set. The Posies play Saturday, July 31, 9 PM, at Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen; 773-384-2672 ($5 requested donation).

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Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
The Great Leap Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Upstairs Theatre
September 05

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