Tag Archives: Wilco

New Wilco: Meant To Be

Video: Wilco – “Meant To Be”

Directed by Joey Garfield. From Cousin, out now on dBpm.

Growing up in the suburbs of Grand Rapids, Michigan I spent a lot of time in skating rinks. In the summer, my local rink Wheel-A-While would host all kinds of specials. We did everything from temperature night (the price was whatever the mercury hit for a high that day), to flashlight night (exactly what you think), to all-night lock-ins where you would skate until you dropped and then looked for the least disgusting piece of carpet to catch a few winks. It was pre-teen suburban boot camp and suffice it to say, I developed some skills.

Years passed and we all grow up. I eventually moved to Chicago, having long packed my skates away in mothballs. But then it happened: A friend had her birthday party at the now dearly departed Rainbo Roller Rink on Clark. I was in my early 30s by this point but giddy to dazzle my friends with my dormant, but still very much present skating skills. And dazzle, I did. It was a glorious night where I glided and swayed to the beat of the music, pulling off a spin here and there for dramatic effect. It was a night dreams are made of.

For their latest single, “Meant to Be,” Chicago’s own Wilco set up camp in the middle of a rink where they are encircled by skaters with greater skills and silkier fluidity than I ever honed on Plainfield Avenue. And while “Meant to Be” is catchy in that old familiar Wilco way, the real show-stoppers are the rollers in the video. May they forever run or at  least wheel-a-while longer.

New Wilco: Cousin

Video: Wilco – “Cousin”

From Cousin, out September 29 on dBpm.

A press release claims this song “is, musically and lyrically, a fight with a relative. Rather, a refusal to fight: the narrator holds their familial opponent in a de-escalatory bear hug, while admitting, ‘My cousin / I’m you.'”

Are you getting any of that from the lyrics? Or from the music for that matter? Because I’m not hearing it. But that’s fine. It sounds cool.

I like that they’re working with an outside producer (Cate Le Bon) for this album, bringing some new sounds and ideas into the mix. You can tell it was still recorded at the Loft though, especially the vocals. Le Bon must not have been able to convince Tweedy to use a different microphone or whatever. They know what they like and it works but it would be fun to hear what might happen if Wilco re-worked their sound even more. Maybe next time!

New Wilco: Evicted

Video: Wilco – “Evicted”

From Cousin, out September 29 on dBpm.

New Wilco! And a new producer, Cate Le Bon! Still recorded at the Loft, but it’s good to see Tweedy and co. at least taking babysteps out of their comfort zone. You may have read that this is the first time Wilco has used an outside producer “since Sky Blue Sky” (2007) — that’s wrong. Sky Blue Sky was produced by Wilco. The last album that was produced by anybody other than Wilco was A Ghost Is Born (2004), produced by “Wilco and Jim O’Rourke.”

Actually, now that I’m looking through the liner notes, I see that since then Wilco (The Album) (2009) was produced by “Wilco and Jim Scott,” The Whole Love (2011) was produced by “Jeff Tweedy with Pat Sansone and Tom Schick,” and pretty much everything since then has been produced by “Jeff Tweedy and Tom Schick.” So who knows? I suppose Tom Schick, as the house engineer at the Loft, is justifiably considered an insider. Whatever….Cate Le Bon! That’s news!

This bit from the press release amuses me: “After a short detour back into their country-influenced roots via last year’s Cruel Country double album, Cousin sees Wilco back in their more familiar progressive and experimental rock territory.”

“Evicted” sounds about as “progressive and experimental” as “Many Worlds” sounded country. Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways it still sounds like Wilco to me.

Tweedy says “Evicted” is loosely “from the point of view of someone struggling to make an argument for themself in the face of overwhelming evidence that they deserve to be locked out of someone’s heart. Self-inflicted wounds still hurt, and in my experience, they’re almost impossible to fully recover from.”

New Wilco video: Tired of Taking It Out On You

Video: Wilco – “Tired of Taking It Out On You”

From Cruel Country, out May 27 on dBpm.

Again, not country. But that’s okay. It’s another well-crafted Wilco song.

I crave crazy times again
Our nights, our nights
Would never end.

I appreciate skronk and noize as much as the next guy, I suppose, but my favorite Wilco has always been the pretty stuff. I like to see what a band can do within the confines of a traditional pop song structure. Every once in a while a band can do something interesting with a 12-minute jam or an extended freakout — “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Sister Ray” come to mind — but most of the time it just comes off as wanky or lazy. I prefer songwriters to get to the point. Work harder on your craft and refine it into something good. Edit.

I get that bands like to “stretch out” or whatever and that’s fine. Do what you like. But I’m happy that Wilco is promising to release a whole (double!) album full of what appears to be acoustic pop songs. That’s my jam. If this is what Tweedy thinks of as “country” that’s fine. Tomato, tomahto.

New Wilco video: Falling Apart (Right Now)

Video: Wilco – “Falling Apart (Right Now)”

From Cruel Country, out May 27 on dBpm.

Hot damn! I’ve barely processed the news that Wilco is going to release a super deluxe 20th anniversary edition of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot featuring 82 unreleased tracks when they come out and announce a brand new album. And not just any album, but a double album featuring an “exploration of the genre they’ve often been defined by but, until now, never fully embraced.” I.e., country.

Other than the lead guitar tone, this new song doesn’t really sound particularly country. But still! If Tweedy’s idea of country is tightly structured songwriting, conversational lyrics, groovy harmonies, and twangy guitars, that’s good enough for me! Yee-ha!

New Christian Lee Hutson video: Rubberneckers

Video: Christian Lee Hutson – “Rubberneckers”

Directed by Zoe Donahoe and Adam Sputh. From Quitters, due April 1 on Anti-.

Does this song sample Wilco’s “Born Alone” or just interpolate it? Either way, it’s a good use of a great riff.

I really like Christian Lee Hutson. He’s about 20 years younger than me but he reminds me of people I knew growing up. He just seems like somebody I would’ve hung out with. His lyrics are sad and funny and nostalgic and a little hopeful. And his melodic sensibilities and delivery reveal an appreciation of Elliott Smith, which gets me every time. I’ve been a fan since the first time I heard “Northsiders” with its references to Morrissey apologists and pretentious college kids.

Anti- is calling “Rubberneckers” the lead single from the upcoming album Quitters, so does that mean “Strawberry Lemonade” — released in November — was a standalone single? Doubtful. But whatever. Who knows what “lead single” means anyway. It can mean whatever you want it to mean, I guess, or it can mean nothing at all. Who cares, the song is good and the video is silly.

Hutson says, “The last time I danced was at the 8th grade social and it was mainly just swaying to ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’ but I wanted to showcase what a natural, gifted dancer I am.” Absolutely!

If you tell a lie for long enough
Then it becomes the truth.
I am gonna be okay someday
With or without you.

There’s nothing truer than the lies we tell ourselves.

Christian Lee Hutson: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Christian Lee Hutson video: Rubberneckers

New Lorde video: Fallen Fruit

Video: Lorde – “Fallen Fruit”

Directed by Joel Kefali and Ella Yelich-O’Connor. From Solar Power, out now on UMG.

Hey, remember when Billy Bragg and Wilco started digging through Woody Guthrie’s old boxes of unfinished songs and put out two really solid albums of that material and then Jay Farrar was all like, ” I want in on that!” and Billy Bragg released a third album of that Guthrie material that Jeff Tweedy thought wasn’t up-to-snuff but it was cock-blocking Farrar so whatever? Wild times.

“Fallen Fruit” sounds like Lorde’s take on an unfinished Elliott Smith song and let me tell you reader, I am all about it. I miss Elliott Smith being in thew world–a lot. Lorde channels his mastery of melody and melancholy with just a hint of danger in “Fallen Fruit.”   She hits right on target and the result is a lovely reminder of what we’ve lost with Elliott Smith gone from the world but what we still have in writers like Lorde.

Objects in the Mirror May Be Closer Than They Seem

The Road

While it might not seem to be, when bands go out on the road, touring, that’s business travel. They’re not out there because they want to sleep in a bus or collect loyalty points at a chain motel where the room smells like cigarette filters and feet. It’s their job the same way the proverbial traveling salesperson is racking up the miles on that rental Impala that has a mysterious noise coming from under the hood that increases slightly with every mile clocked on the odometer.

The musicians show up at the venues large or small, hoping they’ll make the nut that will continue to allow them to make it.

Although bands aren’t corporations per se (of course, I’m talking here about bands that are clawing along in buses, vans and beaters, not those who probably have empty office space in Delaware that is the address of their incorporation papers), they are businesses, in effect, that face the same sorts of logistical challenges on the road as the aforementioned salesperson.

Good news, such as it is, for those bands who are facing the consequences of COVID-19 is that as McKinsey points out in an examination of business travel trends of the moment, “For Corporate Travel, a Long Recovery Ahead” by Andrew Curley, Rachel Garber, Vik Krishnan and Jillian Tellez, “Looking first at the distance of business travel, regional and domestic trips will likely see a return before international travel does.” So odds are for the foreseeable future, competition with non-domestic brands bands will not be much of an issue. And for those who may have car sickness, better lay on a bigger supply of Dramamine because the McKinsey report continues, “Within domestic travel, trips that can happen in personal or rental vehicles may replace short regional flights until companies’ comfort with sending employees via airplanes increases.” While taking the Delta Connection may seem a bit extreme for many bands purely from a financial standpoint, there are those musicians who need to get to a gig that would be outside the realm of a drive—although that verb should have been in the past tense—needed—because it is still the case that most venues are closed and will continue to exist in that state for the next several months—or they’ll simply stop existing.

All of which means that this whole discussion of business travel is a moot point because if bands have no place to perform, it just may be that they’ll have to disband.

That is a consequence of C-19 that will silently echo for years after the vaccine has been injected into our systems.

Continue reading Objects in the Mirror May Be Closer Than They Seem

New Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Video: Deep Sea Diver – “Impossible Weight” (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Directed by Jessica Dobson, Peter Mansen, Tyler Kalberg. From Impossible Weight, out October 16th on ATO.

I saw Deep Sea Diver open up for Wilco back in November, which was the last concert I went to before covid, unless I’m forgetting something, which I totally could be, because this fucking pandemic has obliterated any real sense of time or memory. I would’ve sworn that show was at least three years ago but nope.

And you can hear that maybe a little bit of the headliner rubbed off onto this new song with its swirling chimes and its verses that assassin down the avenue.

But that was then and this is now
I tried so hard not to let you all down
It’s an impossible weight
So I’ll just let you down now

When I was 14 I got into the Monkees when MTV started showing the reruns. Riding the success of that revival, Clive Davis of Arista Records convinced Micky and Peter to a record a few songs for a new hits compilation. “That Was Then, This Is Now” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 5, 1986, peaked at No. 20, and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks. I turned 15 during its reign and I loved it. The album, Then & Now…The Best of the Monkees, stayed on the Billboard 200 for 34 weeks. I played the cassette nonstop.

In not too long I would start to pick up the original albums at garage sales and the Rhino reissues at record stores. My copy of Headquarters had a crack (not a scratch, a crack) that went all the way through, but if I lined it up just right it would still play.

None of that really has anything to do with Deep Sea Diver, but if you’re going to have a chorus that says “that was then and this is now” then you’re going to get a Monkees story out of me and that’s just the way it is.

Oh and also: Sharon Van Etten rules.

Deep Sea Diver: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

New Wilco video: Before Us

Video: Wilco – “Before Us”

Directed by Zoran Orlic. From Ode to Joy, out now on dBpm.

I saw Wilco in concert a few weeks ago and they still put on a great show. I am a solid member of the old school Wilco fan camp who believes they made their best stuff in their first ten years of existence, but I’m not such a hater as to dismiss everything they’ve done since Jay Bennett was given the boot.

I’ll admit that the last album I really loved all the way through was Wilco (The Album), but that was also–perhaps not coincidentally–the last Wilco album I purchased in a physical format. I can accept the possibility that I just haven’t dedicated the time to fully appreciate the four studio albums they released since then.

My overall impression of their recent releases is that they each have a few songs I like, a few songs I don’t, and a bunch of songs I immediately forget. That’s not so bad. They’ve been doing this a long time. What do you expect?

“Before Us” falls into the latter category. It’s pretty but boring. Pleasant but…is that it?

While I realize it would be cost prohibitive for a band that pays for and releases its own recordings, at this point in their lifespan it might be interesting for them to get out of the Loft, where they’ve recorded everything since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky, and work with an outside producer. For all the current lineup’s artrock bonafides, when’s the last time they did anything that surprised you? I’m sure the Loft is super comfortable, but maybe Tweedy needs somebody to kick his ass a little. Shake things up.

Or maybe not. I’m happy they continue to tour and release new music, and if they’ve found the formula that allows them to do this ad infinitum then good for them. Nothing they’ve released this decade is going to make my desert island list, but guess what: I’m not moving to a desert island anytime soon.

Streaming has rendered minimalism and careful curation obsolete. There was a time when people would sell back used CDs that they didn’t think they needed anymore, so that they could afford to buy new stuff. You didn’t want embarrassing shit clogging up your shelves, bringing down the legitimacy of your collection. There’s no need for that anymore.

Keep releasing music and I’ll keep listening. At least a few times before I go back to Being There.

Wilco: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.