Wilco meets Popeye: Dawned On Me (video)

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Everything is coming up Wilco lately.

There’s nothing quite like a 2 1/2-hour set — stuffed with a catalog-spanning 26 tracks (check the pie chart!) — to gently remind you of the greatness that exists in my Wilco collection. Since Saturday’s show at Gammage Auditorium, I’ve gone on a little Wilco bender, from watching the band’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert in October to falling in love with Summerteeth all over again. (Their newest rendition of “Via Chicago,” which morphs from hushed acoustic stillness to a chaotic blur of drumming/noise behind it, was startling and spectacular.)

On Wednesday, the band released its first video since 1999 — an animated take for “Dawned On Me,” starring Popeye and friends. Naturally, frontman Jeff Tweedy has his sights set on Olive Oyl. It’s a fun, if not totally senseless, collaboration, and you can poke around www.wilcospinach.com for more.

Setlist for Wilco at Gammage Auditorium, Jan. 21, 2012:
One Sunday Morning
Art of Almost
I Might
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
One Wing
Bull Black Nova
(Was I) In Your Dreams
Black Moon
Impossible Germany
I’ll Fight
Hotel Arizona
Jesus, Etc.
Born Alone
Capitol City
Handshake Drugs
I’m Always In Love
Dawned on Me
Hummingbird
Shot in the Arm

ENCORE:

Via Chicago
Whole Love
Box Full of Letters
California Stars
Heavy Metal Drummer
Walken
I’m The Man Who Loves You

Zilla Rocca: Full Spectrum 2 (feat. Has-Lo and Open Mike Eagle)

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It was a collaboration that was likely bound to happen, but if bringing Philly’s Zilla Rocca and Los Angeles’ Open Mike Eagle together for a show I put on last February in Phoenix helped hasten the process, then I’m proud to have played some (very) small part in the birth of this jam.

“Full Spectrum 2″ is, as its name suggests, a sequel to the original that appears on Zilla Rocca’s Nights and Weekends EP. Zilla and Has-Lo are back for leftovers, and they’ve brought Open Mike Eagle, shortening the gap between coasts with a return engagement from producer Dr. Quandary.

Stream via SoundCloud below:

Peep the video for the original “Full Spectrum,” shot Super 8 – giving it an appropriately vibrant look – in Asbury Park, N.J.:

Portugal. The Man: So American (video)

Portugal. The Man

I’m still taking inventory on 2011, though I’m not committed to posting a year-end favorite albums list – something I also didn’t do last year, and at this point, does anybody really care?

I think it’s fair to say that Portugal. The Man’s In The Mountain In The Cloud would land in my mythical Top 10, an album that I came to late in the year (despite its mid-summer release) and dominated my listening habits in the final months of ’11. In no time at all, as if by osmosis, I would hear my wife humming Portugal tunes out of nowhere.

In truth, I had listened to In the Mountain not long after it was released. But like so many albums, I first spun it while I was working and it was doomed to fade into the background lest it fracture my focus. Then the band played the song “So American” on Conan in September, and it wasn’t long before I hopped back on the wagon.

I loved the 2007 album Church Mouth, so it wasn’t a stretch to think I’d like this one. Turns out, I really liked it. “So American” ended up on the year-end mix CD I make – a post on that process soon, I think – and it’s one of the songs that’s generated a lot of positive feedback from friends.

I’d never stopped to think about the Elton John-like influence on this song (and most of the album) until my wife said something (she’s really the one who should be blogging here). And it’s a comment that’s been repeated a couple times by friends.

So in the better-late-than-never department, here’s the video (released in October) for “So American,” with the guys in the band flaunting their pale bods (to be fair, they are from Alaska) bro-ing down at the beach and a campfire.

Coincidentally enough, after typing out this post on Sunday night, the band announced dates Monday morning for the Jagermeister Music Tour, including an April 6 stop at Crescent Ballroom. A limited number of tickets, with waived fees in some cases, can be purchased through the band here.

And here they are performing an acoustic version of the song:

PAPA: A Good Woman is Hard to Find EP

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It might be helpful if, before I go to a show, I do a little homework on the opening band. Then I’d probably know if said band was any good. I’d also probably know if it was led by someone that’s in another fairly popular band. But then, sometimes it’s nice to be surprised. And that was the case with PAPA, which opened for Handsome Furs on Wednesday night at Crescent Ballroom.

Led by Girls drummer Darren Weiss (who also sings – a feat of coordination not often seen), PAPA had me at the first song of its set, “Collector,” which I frantically tracked down the next day. It’s part of a five-song EP, A Good Woman is Hard to Find, that was released in October on Hit City U.S.A./Psychedelic Judaism. Seriously, I want to amend the year-end mix CD I make for friends to include “Collector,” a pop earworm that winds up and really lets loose around the 2:40 mark, with Weiss working up from a whisper before hollering, “I just want to be quiet now!” It was a great moment live, and a wise choice as an opening song.

Stream the EP below and pick it up on limited-relase vinyl at Hit City U.S.A.

Here’s the video for “I Am the Lion King”:

110 percent: Serengeti talks Cubs/Sox, the Hawk and why you should always wear your Jordans

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The third installment of 110 percent, a series in which I talk to musicians about sports, features Serengeti (born David Cohn), a Chicago-bred MC whose 2011 album, Family & Friends, was met with well-deserved critical praise (read a great LA Weekly feature).

Serengeti is true-blue Windy City, epitomized by his alter ego Kenny Dennis – the O’Douls-chugging, softball-playing relative anyone from Chicago has (trust me, I know). Kenny loves brats, Brian Dennehy, Ditka and Da Bears. Not necessarily in that order. Check the video for “Dennehy” and I strongly encourage you to check out the powerful and deeply personal Family & Friends, produced by Yoni Wolf of WHY? and Owen Ashworth (formerly known as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone).

Like life in Chicago, sports references are an integral part of Serengeti’s raps (check the song “Ozzie Guillen” for an example).

You grew up in Chicago. Are you a South Sider?
I grew up on the South Side. But I lived on the North Side since I was, like, 17, so I’ve been in both places.

Are your allegiances to the White Sox?
I grew up watching the Cubs because we didn’t have cable and the Cubs were on WGN, so I really fell in love with those ’87 CubsHawk Dawson, Sandberg, that whole era. I’m a really big Cubs fan. But I was never one of those people that liked the Cubs, so you have to hate the Sox. It’s silly. Why not pull for both teams? Is it that much of a pain to do that? It seems like a waste of energy.

Will the Cubs ever win a World Series in our lifetime?
Yeah, I mean, we got like 50 years left in our life. Odds are that it is gonna happen. Everybody wins. They have to win. They have to. They got Theo (Epstein, president of baseball operations), the boy genius. He’s gonna turn it around. It has to happen.

But I guess if it doesn’t happen, that would be really cool. Like, one team hasn’t one a world series in 400 years. It would be, like, 600 years and counting … (laughs)

I was gonna try to count the number of sports references in your songs, but that seemed like an impossible task. Do you feel like your fans get most of them? Or do you even care?
I don’t really care. To me, it makes it one of those things where you listen to it and one day you’re watching a TV show or something and, “Oh, they talked about (Alonzo) Spellman or about Mike Singletary calming down Spellman.” They might just catch that and be like, “Oh, man, that was real.” I like it to be subtle like that. It’s funny to me.

You’ve lived in Los Angeles for the past year or so. Do you feel like sports define a city like Chicago more so than L.A.?
I don’t really know that much about L.A. sports culture. It seems like people really love the Dodgers. But I don’t know much about L.A. sports, aside from watching sports on TV. … I don’t know the whole culture. But Chicago is extreme sports. It’s so cold, and it’s like when spring comes and baseball is here – what a feeling. All this hope and everything is changing.

What’s your greatest moment as a Chicago sports fan?
When Jordan hit that shot over Bryon Russell to win the championship in ’98. That was a great thing.

Did Jordan push off?
Yeah, he did. But it wasn’t called, so he didn’t.

Man, I still have my original pair of Air Jordans
I had the Jordan 5s back when I was in junior high or something like that. My sister got ‘em for me. It was the greatest gift ever and I was so proud of them. I never had all the shoes like all the kids had. Some kids had every shoe whenever it came out.

But for some reason, I didn’t wear the Jordans to school that day. And my cousin was staying at our house – I don’t know why because it was a school day. And my damn cousin took my damn Jordans. They were size 9. He didn’t even fit the shoes. To this day I still harbor this resentment. You went in my closet and packed ‘em up in your bag?

It was crushing. Shit’s gone … fucking Jordans. My life could have gone differently for a period of a month. I’d be the dude with the new Jordans. It was special. I really missed out. I could have had some confidence and that confidence could have led to something else – a whole chain reaction. But my cousin foiled me. It was a good lesson learned.

Never not wear your Jordans.
(Laughs) That’s right. That’s gonna be a Kenny Dennis rap.

I moved from Chicago to Arizona when I was 8, so I witnessed the Jordan dynasty from afar. What was it like in Chicago during the Jordan years?
It was so great, them winning … it was almost boring. “The Bulls are gonna win again.” Why even watch? They were so dominant. For me, I didn’t really appreciate them until the second three-peat (1996-98). The 72-win season (in 1995-96) was incredible. I wish they would have went 73-9, but they lost the final game to Seattle or something like that. … It was incredible.

What about the most disappointing moment as a Chicago sports fan?
That 2003 Cubs season. They were so close. Then they just sorta choked. That was pretty brutal. I remember watching that, thinking ‘They’re about to really do this.’ To watch that thing collapse, that was pretty rough.

And last season with the Bulls losing to bastardly Heat. That was a tough, tough thing to see. These damn Heat. I really don’t like those guys. They made me pull for the Lakers. I didn’t really like Lakers, but I thought that the only team that could beat them is the Lakers.

What do you think about the Bulls this year?
They started out a little shaky and it was like, ‘Was last year lightning in a bottle?’ They turned on the defense. They looked a little slow initially. Carlos Boozer lost all that weight, but didn’t seem like he got any better. He looks very thin now, but didn’t serve him very well.

Who’s your favorite Chicago athlete of all-time?
Hawk. Something about Hawk Dawson and his curl. I loved it, man. I love the Hawk, man.

andredawson

I’m trying to think of a Bears player … sort of. I was really into the Lions because I loved Barry Sanders. I’d always root for those damn Lions teams. They would have one terrible season and then get the soft schedule and be, like, 12-4 and you just know they’re not gonna beat the Redskins or someone like that in the playoffs. It was a smokescreen … you just know they’re not gonna win. But I really loved Barry Sanders, man.

You gotta respect him and how he went out on top.
It wasn’t all about football. But all-time it’s the Hawk. Those games on WGN, it was great. It really drew me into baseball. I, too, played baseball all my life. But just those games, man. Being in my room by myself late at night, those 9:30 p.m. games … that was just beautiful, man. I was up so late watching the Cubs games. I never liked to go to games. I’m not into that. I’d much rather watch stuff at home.

You’re a video-game guy, right?
Just the Black Ops. The Call of Duty game.

So you’re not into the sports games?
I can’t really do all that stuff. I don’t enjoy playing the Madden too much. It doesn’t float my boat. They had this Madden tournament on ESPN, like a documentary sorta deal. Man, these guys are really serious. They know all the defenses.

My favorite sports is boxing. And I can’t even get into those games because it’s hard.

You’re a boxing guy?
Oh, man. I love boxing and combat sports – the MMA stuff. It’s my guilty pleasure.

So you’re not buying into the whole “boxing is dying” line of thinking?
Those guys are fools. Boxing is not dying. When a boxing match happens, it captivates the nation in a way that MMA never will because MMA lacks the elegance and history that boxing has. There’s just way too many variables.

I love boxing, but I do like MMA. What they do in MMA is when a fight is supposed to happen, it happens. There’s not all these mega-purses involved.

I don’t mean to change subjects abruptly, but I heard you on the Knocksteady podcast and you had some thoughts on how to save the WNBA, like lowering the height on the rims?
That was just a fleeting thought. Men’s basketball was really boring and it wasn’t viewed that much until people started dunking. The average height of a male ballplayer is like 6-7 and women is like 5-11. It would make more watchable if a point guard could dribble down, feed the ball in the low post and power forward does a pump fake and goes for a two-handed dunk. Or some little guard gets a fast break and gets a nice dunk. There could be a women’s slam-dunk contest. I don’t know if that’s sexist. College women fans say it’s like art to watch that style of basketball. But in women’s golf, tees are moved up. The basketball in women’s hoops is already smaller, too. It would make it a more vibrant sport. But I don’t know anything about the WNBA. I’m just pullin’ shit outta my ass.

New Miniature Tigers: Female Doctor (plus album release date, tracklisting)

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It was about four months ago that we heard “Boomerang,” the first bit of material from the forthcoming Miniature Tigers album Mia Pharaoh.

Now there’s a release date (March 6 on Modern Art), an album cover (above), a tracklisting (below) and another new tune (“Female Doctor”) as the New York-by-way-of-Phoenix band follows up on 2010′s Fortress.

Spin premiered “Female Doctor,” along with its (possibly NSFW?) cleave-teasing video that was spliced together from clips of Eastern European reality TV. As for the song itself, “Female Doctor” makes a grab for glam-pop, with its infectious synth lines and danceable beat.

Stream the song and watch the video at Spin.

Mia Pharaoh tracklisting:
1. Sex On The Regular
2. Female Doctor
3. Cleopatra
4. Afternoons With David Hockney
5. Easy As All That
6. Flower Door
7. Boomerang
8. Ugly Needs
9. Angel Bath
10. Husbands and Wives

Digital Leather: Young Doctors in Love

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As usual every January, I’ve barely wrapped my head around the previous year while new songs and albums are emerging for what will likely make for another promising 12 months of music.

The first song to grab my attention for the new year comes from the Yuma, Ariz.-born Shawn Foree (aka Digital Leather), whose forthcoming full-length, Modern Problems, will be released Feb. 14 on FDH Records. The album is Foree’s first since the death of his good friend Jay Reatard last January and, in his own words, “is a narrative of the grieving process.”

“Lyrically, this is personal stuff. I’m letting it all hang out – the beautiful as well as the hideous. I was conscientious about the lyrics, but not to the point of tedium.”

The first leak, “Young Doctors in Love,” immediately pulls you into Foree’s fuzzed-out synths and emotional state of mind. He says he created an alter-ego, writing the album from the vantage point of a character who lost a loved one, and “Young Doctors” expresses that from the opening lines: “Just for one more night, let’s relive the past / You and I both know it’s disappearing fast.” (Later, he sings, “Hey, I think we’re alone now,” a coy nod to a recognizable refrain.)

Modern Problems, the follow-up to 2009′s Warm Brother (Fat Possum), is available for pre-order at FDH.

This post also reminds me that I’ve never written anything about Digital Leather’s 2009 cover of MGMT’s “Time to Pretend,” a brooding, lo-fi rendition that (I dare say) I prefer to the original. You can still grab it at Stereogum.

Light in the Attic reissues Morphine’s Cure for Pain on vinyl

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Not to overly fetishize the notion of vinyl, but if any album belongs on wax — with all its clicks and pops and dusty imperfections — it has to be Morphine’s sophomore breakthrough, Cure for Pain. Other than a rare, 20-year-old Brazilian pressing (copies of which fetch $200-plus on eBay), the 1993 album has previously never been pressed to vinyl in the U.S.

But Light in the Attic — the Seattle-based label that specializes in reissues — has stepped up to fill the void, releasing a remastered, 180-gram version on its Modern Classics Recordings imprint. The reissue includes new liner notes and interviews with surviving band members.

It was, tragically, in July 1999 that frontman Mark Sandman collapsed on stage in Italy and died of a heart attack at the age of 46. (I had a ticket to see Morphine and Soul Coughing on Aug. 1 of the same year in Austin.) Between this reissue and the documentary, Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story (read a Q&A with the filmmakers here), the off-beat Boston trio could reach a new/wider audience, and deservedly so.

Without the use of and need for an electric guitar, Morphine branded its form of “low rock” around Sandman’s homemade two-string slide bass, accompanied by Dana Colley on sax (long before Destroyer, Bon Iver and the like found it cool) and Billy Conway on drums. Almost twenty years later, Cure for Pain sounds as moody and original as it did when I was 16 years old — but now, in my mid-30s, Sandman’s lyrics feel a little more real.

I can’t wait to get my hands on this reissue and my eyes on the documentary. Check out the trailer for it below: