Tag Archives: wilco

Quindar Love

IMG_4995For my day job at Air & Space / Smithsonian, I wrote about Quindar, an electronic music duo comprised of art historian James Merle Thomas and Wilco multinstrumentalist Mikael Jorgensen. In their multimedia live performances and on their debut album Hip Mobility, the pair finds inspiration in the ephemera of the pre-Shuttle space program.

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The Late Greats: Wilco at Strathmore

Sorry I’ve let things slide around here for the past couple of weeks, everybody. But What ho!, new writing at last: I reviewed what turned out to be an epic Wilco concert — three hours, 37 songs, last Red Line train home – for the Washington Post. The blog version features a setlist and copious photos by the great Kyle Gustafson, while the paper-paper version has only one.

I thought I’d have more to say about the show, which included a lot of excellent, seldom-performed songs I never thought I’d hear, like “Some Day Some Morning Sometime” from Mermaid Avenue Vol. II , for instance, but for once I managed to stick to my allotted space. Amy Argetsinger gave me a little shout in her Reliable Source item about White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel being at the show, which is why the Daily Swarm linked to the review. I haven’t loved Wilco’s most recent pair of records as much the ones they released between 1996 and 2004, but I’ve seen them play a bunch of times in the last 10 years, and I don’t think they’ve ever been a better live band than they are now.

Here’s Valerie’s fine DCist review breaking down the value-for-money equation, with some great photos by Jeff Martin.

On an unrelated note, I wrote about Bruce Norris’s superb new play Clybourne Park at Woolly Mammoth for the City Paper last week, but the Best of DC special issue didn’t contain an arts section, so the piece didn’t come out until today. Apologies, Woolly Mammoths.

Separated at Blitz, a ghost is born Again

You probably noticed this last year when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s It’s Blitz! came out, but I just caught it now. Is its egg-crushing cover intended to portend a sequel or rebuke Wilco’s 2004 a ghost is born?

Probably not. About the only commonality that leaps out at me among these two albums is that both found their makers using synthesizers and what I’ll call, for want of a better descriptor, more self-consciously artificial sounds than they had in the past. Wilco’s prior outing, their 2001/2 breakthrough yankee hotel foxtrot, probably had as much or more studio-generated soundcape on it than ghost, but the bleeps and bloops were less conspicuous, disguised as found tape or intercepted radio interference. And foxtrot didn’t have a 12-minute ambient “sound installation” (as Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy called it) embedded in its penultimate track.

Live Last Night: Son Volt at the 9:30 Club

James Walbourne isn't pictured.

James Walbourne isn't pictured.

‘Scuse me, son, but I haven’t seen you hanging around with Chrissie Hynde lately?

Indeed. The pale, intense young fellow stage right at last night’s robust Son Volt gig at the 9:30 club was one James Walbourne, the British guitar prodigy whose serrated-edge leads make the current, boot-cut incarnation of The Pretenders so much fun. He’s even more valuable an addition to Son Volt, whose solid but often grayscale tunes — which aspire to be the iPhone era incarnation of Woody Guthrie’s dust-bowl ballads — tend to need the extra hooch more than Hynde’s do. Continue reading

Kraftwerkin’ on a Dream: Jeff Tweedy (the interview)

Jeff Tweedy maintains that Wilco is a collaborative enterprise, though he's the man who wears the hat.

Jeff Tweedy maintains that Wilco is a collaborative enterprise, though he's the man who wears the hat.

I conducted this interview with Jeff Tweedy on June 17. It was excerpted for a “Conversations” box that appeared in the Paper of Record on Sunday, July 5. Here’s the interview in something close to its entirety, albeit lightly edited for clarity. It’s up on Post Rock, too. Wilco are at Wolf Trap tonight with Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band.

There are bands that have sold more records during the past decade than Wilco, but few have been the subject of more discussion among rock’s cognoscenti. Guided by the songs and voice of Jeff Tweedy, 41, every Wilco album since 1996’s Being There, (with the arguable exception of 2007’s Sky Blue Sky) has explored new subjects, textures, and song structures.
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Jay Bennett Memorial Playlist

Jay Bennett

Jay Bennett died on Saturday night. He was, I am increasingly convinced, the source of much of what I love about Wilco’s music, as the five albums made with his input — 1996’s Being There through 2001’s yankee hotel foxtrot — are the ones to which I always return. The records Wilco made on either side of the Jay Bennett era haven’t moved me nearly as much.

I attribute this more to Bennett’s pop sensibility and studio wizardry, which made a song like “Secret of the Sea” from Mermaid Ave. Vol. II what it was, than to his lead guitar work, which was, if more traditional than Jeff Tweedy’s, also a lot more fun to hear. Continue reading

Being There: Jeff Tweedy at Wrigley Field

My dad, a Chicago native, brought me to Wrigley a whole bunch of times when I was growing up. We’d usually go to the Windy City to see my Grandma in late June or early July, and a trip to the Friendly Confines was always on the itinerary. I’ve seen the Cubbies lose to the Pirates, the Padres, the Dodgers, the Phillies. I can’t remember if I ever saw them win.

But when Jeff Tweedy conducts the seventh inning stretch, we all win. I can’t believe he hung out on-air afterwards, and actually appeared to enjoy himself.