Her voice has been likened to Regina Spektor's. Her style has been compared to Bjork's. Anyone who has seen her perform, though, knows that Wichita singer-songwriter Michelle Monger stands out on her own.
An effervescent stage presence and a principled, political bent come together in an acoustic alternative sound that commands our attention. On the local music scene for only a little more than a year, she's already reached a milestone. Tonight, she'll release her first EP, "Ghost Demand," and celebrate the occasion with a party at the Artichoke Sandwich Bar.
"I love music and when I hear it, I want to hear something that takes my breath away," Monger said. "I like to be overwhelmed, and I try to evoke those same strong feelings with my own music.
"Some of my songs are very political in nature, while some are heartbreaking. I sing a lot in metaphors, and there's deep meaning when you peel back the layers of the songs."
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Monger's unabashed intention to be herself is part of what attracts fans. That's what caught the attention of Brock Shannon, frontman of the popular indie band The Brittle Lens.
"I think she's a great performer and a songwriter that represents the rebel Kansas spirit very well," Shannon said. "She is one of the few performers in town where the crowd sings along with her on her original songs."
Shannon and fellow Brittle Lens band member Bryce Abood helped produce Monger's EP.
Monger's mesh of the personal and the political is on full display in her seven-track EP. Each song has its own story and possesses a distinct sound. The opener, "Intermissionary," is a tempo-varying, playful waltz about exploring young love.
Later, Monger gets somber with "Bringing Back the Dead", a song that inspired the EP's title. Brimming with arresting lyrics, it refers to the sad moments in life when it seems everyone you care about has gone away — what Monger calls being on "ghost demand."
The final track, "Straight and True," is a full-on feminist ballad, fatalistically bemoaning the fact that love is often full of cliches and women stripped of their individuality in the pursuit of romance.
"I tend to get very political," Monger said. "As a woman, choice is very important to me. The song 'Straight and True' is all about having the choice to be who you are."
Though the local music scene is rich with talent, Monger said that many artists don't tackle hot-button social issues or take on heavy political themes in their songs. "It takes backbone to be political here," she said.
As for what's next, Monger, at age 21, knows she still has a lot of growing to do, both personally and musically. She'll continue her regular performances at places like the Riverside Perk, Blank Page and the Artichoke. She also plans to continue writing songs and hopes to get exposure beyond her hometown.
Her fans have no doubt that will happen.
"Honestly, it makes me sad when I think about the truth that she will outgrow Wichita one day," Shannon said. "I hope people will appreciate her while she is here, and that she comes back often."
If you go
What: EP release party for the Wichita singer-songwriter
Where: Artichoke Sandwich Bar, 811 N. Broadway
When: 8 p.m. today
How much: $7, includes copy of "Ghost Demand" EP. Must be 18 or older to enter.