Results for Wilco

interviews

Wilco

Getting all six members of the band Wilco on the show is no easy feat. But, this week Jim and Greg were able to snag an hour with the band just before their first U.S. performance in support of Sky Blue Sky, their sixth studio album released last week. The men all met at Northwestern University's Patten Gymnasium, but aside from the shoddy acoustics, it was a treat for all. Those not familiar with Wilco's story, should check out Greg's book Learning How to Die. But, by now, most have heard about the trials and tribulations of Jeff Tweedy and his often-changing cast of characters. The current cast includes Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Nels Cline, Mike Jorgensen and Pat Sansone. The members of Wilco are all great musicians in their own right with a number of side projects, but, as they explain to Jim and Greg, there is nothing like collaborating with band mates (or living like The Monkees).

A lot has been said about the fact that between the recording of A Ghost Is Born and Sky Blue Sky, chief songwriter and lead singer Jeff Tweedy went to rehab to deal with prescription drug dependency and depression. In fact, with its intense fan base and media scrutiny, there's not a lot about the band that hasn‘t been said. The question is posed as to whether or not Jeff’s recovery affected the music. But, he explains that the biggest effect is just feeling physically healthy. Still, as Jim notes, you can't help but sense a more positive outlook on Sky Blue Sky — a tone that Jeff attributes to maturity more than anything. Listen to the tracks "Side With the Seeds," "Sky Blue Sky," and "What Light," and you be the judge. Then check out the exclusive bonus track, "You Are My Face."

Go to episode 77

Mike Heidorn of Uncle Tupelo

You can trace alternative country's roots to the 1960's when rock musicians such as Gram Parsons, The Byrds and the Flatlanders began dabbling with and reinvigorating country music. It was part of a wider investigation of American roots music in rock, a move toward more“authentic”styles. These rockers looked to country greats like Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard for inspiration — Bob Dylan famously collaborated with Cash on "Girl From the North Country." In the '70s and early '80s, a new generation of punk rockers started digging into traditional country for inspiration, including X, The Mekons, Rank & File, Jason and the Scorchers and the Long Ryders. Then third wave of alt country hit in the late '80s and early '90s, led by The Jayhawks out of Minneapolis and Uncle Tupelo, the trio of Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn, out of Belleville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. Uncle Tupelo's debut album,“No Depression,”took its name from a Carter Family song, "No Depression in Heaven," and it's one of many the key albums in defining the alt-country movement of this era. We have this band to thank for groups like Farrar's Son Volt, Tweedy's Wilco, Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown, the Drive-By-Truckers and the Old 97's …and not to mention No Depression Magazine. Legacy Recordings recently reissued No Depression, complete with some never before released demo tracks from 1987 to 1989. And to talk about it, Jim and Greg are joined by Uncle Tupelo's founding drummer Mike Heidorn.

Go to episode 442

Tweedy

This past July, Sound Opinions took the show out of the WBEZ studios and in front of a live audience at Chicago's Lincoln Hall. The impetus for a field trip? Tweedy, the new project by Wilco lead singer and founder Jeff Tweedy. The band features Jeff on vocals and guitar, Jeff's 18-year-old son Spencer Tweedy on drums, Liam Cunningham on keyboards, Jim Elkington on guitars & Darrin Gray on bass. Jeff and Spencer spoke with Jim and Greg about how the 20 song album, Sukierae, came together after Spencer played drums on One True Vine, the Jeff Tweedy-produced album by Mavis Staples. In fact, Spencer calls Mavis another“Grandma.”Sukierae came at a much-needed time for the Tweedy family; Jeff's wife, Sue Miller, began her fight against lymphoma. And her nickname provides the album its title. So what is it like to tour with your dad and play actual "Dad Rock"? What happens if Spencer dates a Wilco fan? And when can we expect new Wilco music from the now-20-year-old band? Tune in for answers to those questions, plus songs from the new record.

Go to episode 460

Glenn Kotche

This week Jim and Greg are joined by percussionist extraordinaire Glenn Kotche. He is best known as one of the members of Wilco, but he also has a number of side projects, and a new solo album entitled Mobile. Glenn joins our hosts to discuss all things drumming and to play some of his inventive music. What makes Glenn's drumming style so special is that it ranges from the avant-garde to the straight-ahead rock he does with Wilco, yet it's always in service of the song. You can hear his solo tracks "Monkey Chant" and "Projections of (What) Might" during the show.

After playing for a bit, Glenn gives our hosts a little tour around his kit. Some of Glenn's toys include crotales, a glockenspiel, contact mics (which amplify and alter the drum sounds), and a superball mallet (or half of it). The drummer also has a prepared snare drum which is affixed with different springs and wires, similar to a John Cage prepared piano. He also stole his wife's fruit basket, which the two received as a wedding present. But, perhaps the most unusual percussion instruments that Glenn uses are light-sensitive toy crickets that anyone can pick up in Chinatown.

The discussion ends with a conversation about some of the best (and worst) rock drummers. Some of Jim, Greg, and Glenn's favorites include: Mo Tucker of the Velvet Underground, Meg White of The White Stripes, Elliott Smith, Levon Helm of The Band, and Keith Moon of The Who (despite the accusations of overplaying).

Go to episode 42

Michael Rother

Our guest this week might not be a familiar name to most. But, Michael Rother is one of the most innovative figures in rock. Along with Klaus Dinger, he formed Neu! and created three hugely influential albums in the 1970's. They were part of a great wave of German art rock of that period and continue to be name checked by everyone from Wilco to Sonic Youth to U2. Rother talks to Jim and Greg about his solo work and his time with Neu!. The band's back catalog is now available in a limited edition box set, and Rother is touring the country with a new band under the name Hallogallo 2010.

Go to episode 253

Top Albums of 2005

The“Best Records”list: It's“a sacred thing”in pop music fandom, says Jim, requiring a discerning ear and laser-like focus. Thankfully, our hosts are here to help. After sifting through hundreds of records, and countless days spent listening (perhaps to the discontent of their wives), they‘ve managed to pick out their absolute favorites. Here’s what Jim and Greg say they'll still be listening to in 2006.

Go to episode 2

Lawrence Lessig

Next up Jim and Greg play a bit of The Grey Album, a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album made by DJ Danger Mouse. This was an album that received a lot of critical praise and attention. It even topped both Jim and Greg's year-end lists. It is a completely modern work that could not have been made without recent digital technologies. The rub here is that it could not be purchased anywhere, and many people who heard it don't even own a hard copy. This is because, according to current copyright law, what DJ Danger Mouse did was completely illegal. To discuss how laws like this are stifling art and how music in the digital age has changed in other ways, Jim and Greg welcome the definitive expert on this issue: Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig, a faculty member of Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, has authored three books on cyber law and free culture, tried cases before the Supreme Court and founded Creative Commons, an organization trying to expand the range of creative work legally available to share.

While copyright laws have existed for over 200 years, music was not protected for a long time. Early in the 20th century protections for musicians and songwriters were put in place; however these laws did not necessarily hinder creativity. Once a song was recorded, anyone had the right to record it. This encouraged artists and was fundamental to the growth of the music industry, so much so that even the RIAA defended this right. The 21st century version of this kind of conversation between artists is sampling, but under current law, Professor Lessig explains, sampling is considered piracy. Therefore, creative expression and evolution are not fostered the way they were in the last century.

To demonstrate this point, Jim and Greg discuss the evolution of one song in the 20th century. Whether it was called“To the Pines,”"In the Pines," or even“Where Did You Sleep Last Night,”musicians like Leadbelly and Nirvana would quote and reference each other, essentially engaging in a dialogue and helping to inspire one another. This kind of songwriting and recording is the definition of a musical community and has been around since music itself. The sad truth is that such a community can't legally exist today. Listen to the songs that may have been lost had this been the case before the digital age:

  • Bill Monroe - "In the Pines," recorded between 1936-1941
  • Leadbelly - "In the Pines," 1947
  • Bascom Lamar Lunsford - "To the Pines, To the Pines," 1949
  • Joan Baez - "In the Pines," recorded between 1960 - 1963
  • The Grateful Dead - "In the Mines," 1966
  • Nirvana - "Where did you Sleep Last Night," 1994
  • Rancho Deluxe - "In The Pines," 2005
  • Smog - "In The Pines," 2005

Other versions include:

  • Clifford Jordan - "Black Girl," These Are My Roots, 1965
  • Mark Lanegan - "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," The Winding Sheet, 1990
  • Dolly Parton - "In the Pines," Heartsong, 1994
  • Louvin Brothers -“In the Pines,”Tragic Songs of Life, 1956
  • Youth Gone Mad feat. Dee Dee Ramone - "In the Pines," Youth Gone Mad, 2002

Digital copyright laws affect the consumer as well. In fact, Professor Lessig suggests that“creator”might be a more appropriate name. In the last century, music fans would buy music or make mixtapes, but current technology allows the listener to be a part of the creative process. The law currently treats these creative consumers, many of whom are kids, as thieves. Our guest does not condone illegal behavior, but strives to change existing laws rather than prosecute people who are hardly criminals.

In addition to changing laws, Professor Lessig recommends that record companies use the Web rather than fight it. If he ran a label he would encourage people to participate in the creative process and remix an artist's work. He would also allow and encourage artists to release their music on the internet. A small number of bands including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wilco have been able to do this with really positive results. Finally, if he ran a label, he would not bite the hand that feeds him and back away from the harmful DRM technologies that labels are bundling into their content.

Go to episode 134

Lawrence Lessig

Next up, Jim and Greg play a bit of The Grey Album, a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album made by DJ Danger Mouse. This album received a lot of critical praise in 2004 (it even topped both Jim and Greg's year-end lists). It's a completely modern work that could not be made without recent digital technologies. The rub? It cannot be purchased anywhere, and most people who have heard it don't own a hard copy. This is because according to current copyright law, what DJ Danger Mouse did was completely illegal. To discuss how laws like this are stifling art, and how music in the digital age is changing, Jim and Greg welcome the definitive expert on this issue: Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig, a faculty member of Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, has authored three books on cyber law and free culture, tried cases before the Supreme Court and founded Creative Commons, an organization trying to expand the range of creative work legally available to share.

While copyright laws have existed for over 200 years, music was not protected for a long time. Early in the 20th century, protections for musicians and songwriters were put in place, but these laws did not necessarily hinder creativity. Once a song was recorded, anyone had the right to record it. This encouraged artists and was fundamental to the growth of the music industry — so much so that even the RIAA defended this right. The 21st century version of this kind of conversation between artists is sampling — but under current law, Professor Lessig explains, sampling is considered piracy. Therefore, creative expression and evolution are not fostered the way they were in the last century.

Digital copyright laws also affect the consumer. In fact, Lessig suggests that“creator”might be a more appropriate name. In the last century, fans would buy music or make mixtapes, but current technology allows listeners to take part in the creative process. The law currently treats these creative consumers, many of whom are kids, as thieves. While our guest doesn't condone illegal behavior, he hopes to see existing laws change, rather than prosecute fans who are hardly criminals.

In addition to changing laws, Professor Lessig recommends that record companies use the Web rather than fight it. If he ran a label, he says, he would encourage people to participate in the creative process and remix an artist's work. Lessig would also allow and encourage artists to release their music on the internet. A small number of bands including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wilco have been able to do this with really positive results. Finally, if he ran a label, he would not bite the hand that feeds him, backing away from the harmful DRM technologies that labels are bundling into their content.

Go to episode 12
specials

Victims of the Music Business

nellie This week Jim and Greg stick it to the man, or more specifically — record companies. They discuss the phenomenon of major labels pulling the plug on established artists. The most recent victim is Nellie McKay, whose album Pretty Little Head was denied release by Sony Music. McKay wanted to release one version, Sony wanted to release another, and after the“pretty little”singer told her label to take it or leave it, they left it. Of course, upon hearing the advance copy, our hosts can't necessarily blame them.

Whether you enjoy the music or not, McKay's situation does pose an interesting question of how much creative control an artist has while under major label contract. As Jim states:“As long as there have been major labels, there have been executives deciding that they know better than the artist.”What are some of the other lost albums that fell prey to the big bad record company? Jim and Greg list off some of their favorites, including:

The Butthole Surfers

During the early '90s when "alternative" music was achieving commercial success, The Butthole Surfers were signed to Capitol. When the alternative fad waned, their label no longer appreciated the band's weird aesthetic and refused to release their album After The Astronaut. The Buttholes sued Capitol and demanded early release from their contract. The record, however, remained under Capitol ownership. Fans needn't fret though; most of the material was re-recorded and released by Hollywood Records.

Wilco

The hometown favorite's album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was delayed release by its label because it was more conceptual than it was pop. Conceptual, of course, is hard to sell, so Reprise Records asked Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates to go back into the studio and find a hit. Wilco decided to stand by its album, and bid farewell to Reprise. Normally it would take a lot of time and money to recover tapes made under a label's contract, but in this case, Reprise let Wilco take their music, rather than face a public relations nightmare. The album was eventually released in 2002 by a different Warner Music subsidiary and ended up being the biggest selling of their career. The story played out very nicely in life, in film, and most importantly, in print.

Fiona Apple

This singer's label woes were perhaps the most highly publicized of the bunch, but according to our experts, the often difficult artist needs to take some of the blame. Apple decided to work with producer Jon Brion for a third time, but felt she needed more time on this effort. Epic Records, not pleased with what they‘d been hearing all along, told Apple that they’d need to approve a track at a time. Or at least that's what she thought she heard. In a dramatic move, Apple stopped recording, leaving the album unfinished. Neither Epic nor Apple wanted to release the music, however some of the songs leaked, and the response was so overwhelming that Apple was inspired to start working again. This time, she joined up with producers Mike Elizondo and Brian Kehew, and Extraordinary Machine can be heard in not one, but two forms.

Go to episode 117
classic album dissections

Big Star Radio City

Jim and Greg celebrate the 40th anniversary of Big Star's debut album by revisiting their Classic Album Dissection of the band's first two records, #1 Record and Radio City. #1 Record might be nearing middle age, but the pop sound Big Star pioneered in the seventies is as vibrant as ever. As Jim and Greg discuss, the band changed the history of American music, without selling very many records. With a sound that combined Memphis Soul with British Invasion rock, they laid the groundwork for American“Power Pop”and influenced bands including R.E.M., Wilco and The Replacements. The original Big Star lineup included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jim and Greg's guest this week, drummer Jody Stephens.

Following their discussion with Jody Stephens, Jim and Greg each discuss and play a song. Greg chooses to highlight the opening track from #1 Record called "Feel." The song was written and performed by Chris Bell. While Alex Chilton is the name most people associate with Big Star, Bell really created it. Most of his incredible work didn't see the light of day until after his death at age 26, but Greg thinks songs like“Feel,”illustrate the power of his voice and lyrics-many of which convey the problems he faced in his short life.

Jim plays a song written and performed by Alex Chilton from the second album called "September Gurls." As he discussed with Jody earlier in the show, this was a breakout song for the band and one that was immediately adored by critics and fans including The Bangles, who later covered it. Jim's not sure what the song means, but for him it's more about the mood that Chilton created. With its sweeping melodies and“pan-sexuality”it's a power pop classic.

Go to episode 365
Radio CityRadio City available on iTunes

Big Star Radio City

During this episode Jim and Greg celebrate the legacy of Big Star with a Classic Album Dissection of their first two records, #1 Record and Radio City. Both albums have recently been re-released as a double album, and a new Big Star box set is due out next week. As Jim and Greg discuss, the band changed the history of American music without selling very many records. With a sound that combined Memphis Soul with British Invasion rock, they laid the groundwork for "Power Pop" and influenced bands including R.E.M., Wilco and The Replacements. The original Big Star lineup included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jim and Greg's guest this week, drummer Jody Stephens.

Following their discussion with Jody Stephens, Jim and Greg each discuss and play a song. Greg chooses to highlight the opening track from #1 Record called "Feel." The song was written and performed by Chris Bell. While Alex Chilton is the name most people associate with Big Star, Bell really created it. Most of his incredible work didn't see the light of day until after his death at age 26, but Greg thinks songs like“Feel,”illustrate the power of his voice and lyrics–many of which convey the problems he faced in his short life.

Jim plays a song written and performed by Alex Chilton from the second album called September Gurls. As he discussed with Jody earlier in the show, this was a breakout song for the band and one that was immediately adored by critics and fans including The Bangles, who later covered it. Jim's not sure what the song means, but for him it's more about the mood that Chilton created. With its sweeping melodies and“pan-sexuality”it's a power pop classic.

Go to episode 198
reviews
Sky Blue SkySky Blue Sky available on iTunes

Wilco Sky Blue Sky

After much anticipation, Sky Blue Sky, the new album by Wilco, has finally been released. As always band members Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt are on board, and this time they're also joined by Glenn Kotche, Nels Cline, Mike Jorgensen and Pat Sansone. While their last album, A Ghost Is Born, was fairly experimental, this release is more of a return to form. In fact, Greg describes the record as kind of a“one-trick pony,”but it's a trick he really enjoys. Because the record has been streaming at Wilco's website, many fans have already formed their opinions and are not over the moon about Sky Blue Sky. But the music is so quiet, so intimate that Greg urges listeners to let it sink in more. One might expect musical acrobatics from a guitar wizard like Cline and a master percussionist like Kotche, but their performance is intentionally subtle in order to serve the song. Greg gives Sky Blue Sky and its message of consolation a Buy It. Jim also came to this conclusion, but much later in his listening experience. It took 12 times through for this critic to overcome his expectations of a ferocious, rocking record. But, as he explains, if any artist has earned the right to ask us to listen to something 12 times, it's Jeff Tweedy. Jim notes that this album is representative of a specific time and space for Tweedy and company, one that was very introspective. He wishes that Tweedy had responded more to what's happening in the world around us, and admits that at times, some of the songs can border on tedious. But, because Tweedy is as important an artist as someone like Bob Dylan or Neil Young, Jim thinks it's worth going on any journey the musician invites you on. He also gives the new Wilco a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 76
Star WarsStar Wars available on iTunes

Wilco Star Wars

The Chicago-based band Wilco, led by Sound Opinions guest Jeff Tweedy, released a surprise album, their 9th, last week called Star Wars. The band then proceeded to play the ENTIRE album as the headliners of the Pitchfork Music Festival. Jim thinks this album is a return to form, finding Tweedy and company returning to the style of music following Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Summerteeth. He loves the melodic nature of the album and gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees and thinks this is their best album since A Ghost Is Born. He really enjoys the mix of pop sensibility and studio manipulation and distortion. He feels like the band is as loose and engaged as ever and also gives Star Wars a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 504
The Whole LoveThe Whole Love available on iTunes

Wilco The Whole Love

Wilco has a new album out called The Whole Love, and it comes at a time of consistency for the band, which formed out of the ashes of Uncle Tupelo in 1994. Its current lineup is the longest running in the band's history. But for the first time in a couple of albums, Jim says the music has gone from beyond good to extraordinary. He notes the comparison to former label mate R.E.M., and suggests Wilco took the smart route by going completely independent. Greg is reminded of the days when Wilco really took chances. There's a sense of surprise, and bass player John Stirratt and drummer Glenn Kotche's playing is phenomenal. The Whole Love gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 306
Wilco (The Album)Wilco (The Album) available on iTunes

Wilco Wilco (The Album)

Just as they are dealing with the news of Jay Bennett's death, the members of Wilco are preparing to release their seventh studio record. Wilco (The Album) features "Wilco (The Song)," one of their best according to Greg. Jim agrees, but doesn't think the album breaks any ground for the band. He calls it a summing up, albeit a perfectly executed summing up. Greg wouldn't argue, but did hear a few more surprises. Either way, both hosts give Wilco (The Album) a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 183
SchmilcoSchmilco available on iTunes

Wilco Schmilco

Veteran Chicago band (and Greg Kot biography subject) Wilco returns with its 10th album, Schmilco. On this record, leader Jeff Tweedy explores the alienated feelings of his childhood spent as a misfit in downstate Illinois. Schmilco is drawn from the same sessions as the band's previous album, Star Wars, which Greg says was a jarring but welcome departure for the band. Schmilco swaps the noise of Star Wars for an unsettlingly weird folkie vibe à la early Tyrannosaurus Rex. No record in their discography sounds like this one, and Greg feels it's deserving of a Buy It. Jim agrees, noting that for a while it was beginning to sound like Wilco had a formula. These last two records have tossed that up, featuring a rawness and realness you wouldn't expect from a band this far into its career.

JimGreg
Go to episode 563
Lost On the River (Deluxe Version)Lost on the River available on iTunes

The New Basement Tapes Lost on the River

Who knew that one summer in a basement in upstate New York in 1967 would become such a big deal? But fans of Bob Dylan and The Band are still poring over the material that came out of those musicians‘ one-take, slapdash recording sessions, decades later. It’s amazing considering that those Basement Tapes weren't even supposed to go public. Now, more lyrics from that time have surfaced and have been turned into new music produced by T. Bone Burnett and performed by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons. The result is Lost on the River by The New Basement Tapes. Greg particularly admires the bluesy, pre-rock sound contributed by Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But, for the most part, he doesn't hear any of the magic of The Basement Tapes. And that's not surprising considering it was a contrived project with the manufactured setting of the basement of Capitol Records in L.A., not rural New York. He can only say Try It. Jim thinks Greg is being kind. He doesn‘t think you can separate Dylan’s lyrics and poetry from Dylan's music and voice. This collaboration is nothing like the successful Wilco/Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie project Mermaid Avenue. He says Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 468
Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (Deep Cuts Edition)Golden Sings That Have Been Sung available on iTunes

Ryley Walker Golden Sings That Have Been Sung

Singer-songwriter Ryley Walker hails from the Chicago independent music scene, and puts his complex guitar skills on exhibition in his latest release Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. Many critics have drawn comparisons between Walker and Van Morrison because of his singing and guitar virtuoso talent. Jim first discovered Ryley Walker at South By Southwest and was blown away. Jim cites Walker's production collaboration with Leroy Bach, formerly of Wilco, as something that helped elevate his music to a new level. Overall, he finds that Walker's introspective vocals and guitar playing are the highlights of the album, and gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees, and thinks Walker has evolved on this record, establishing his own modern sound. He thinks Walker blends his complex guitar parts with more unusual sonic elements to perfection. Greg gives Golden Sings That Have Been Sung a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 560
StillStill available on iTunes

Richard Thompson Still

Still is the 25th solo album from folk rock guitarist, Richard Thompson. The former Fairport Convention musician collaborated with Wilco frontman and producer Jeff Tweedy. Greg wasn‘t exactly disappointed, but a little let down after Thompson’s ferocious 2013 album, Electric. In Still, he explores some darker and more serious themes like loss of faith in humanity. However Greg was happy he balanced those tracks with lighter and more humorous songs like "Guitar Heroes." He gives it a Buy It. Jim actually found“Guitar Heroes”cheesy. He also doesn't think Tweedy added much in his production. But because of wins like "Josephine" and "Long John Silver," Jim says Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 499
One True VineOne True Vine available on iTunes

Mavis Staples One True Vine

Mavis Staples has released her 13th studio album called One True Vine. She tapped Wilco's Jeff Tweedy to produce for the 2nd time, but this time around, Jim says, he is not so awed by her. The material is better and the sparse production showcases her voice more. Jim says Buy It to this dark, quiet record. Greg, who knows a thing or three about Mavis Staples and Wilco, has admired all the singer's recent albums. And he thinks she's achieved one of the greatest second acts in rock history. He gives this“American treasure”a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 396
You Are Not AloneYou Are Not Alone available on iTunes

Mavis Staples You Are Not Alone

During this show Jim and Greg review some of this season's big new releases. First up is the latest from Mavis Staples. The iconic Chicago soul singer turned to neighbor and fan Jeff Tweedy of Wilco to produce You Are Not Alone. Greg calls Staples one of America's great singers. And all of the facets of her sound and personality are represented here. He gives the album a Buy It rating. Jim has been waiting for Mavis to make her masterpiece record that would tell the world how great she really is. You Are Not Alone is a fine effort, but the songs are nothing special, according to Jim. He worries that Tweedy was intimidated by Staples and didn't push her enough. For that reason Jim tells listeners to Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 249
If All I Was Was BlackIf All I Was Was Black available on iTunes

Mavis Staples If All I Was Was Black

Mavis Staples is a national treasure and gospel legend, but has only recently blossomed into a successful solo artist. She recently released If All I Was Was Black, a record she collaborated on with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. Greg, who literally wrote the book on Mavis, is loving this new record. He loves that Mavis is getting mad and speaking out against racial injustices in the United States in her most political album yet. He also loves Tweedy's guitar and arrangements on the record, as they give Mavis room to improvise and shine. He gives it an enthusiastic Buy It. Jim couldn‘t agree more, and he points out that while Mavis is certainly more angry on this album, she shows through her lyrics and singing that she still has her tender, golden heart. Jim thinks this is the best record of Mavis’s career on the Anti- label and her strongest collaboration with Tweedy. Jim gives If All I Was Was Black a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 628
We Shall Overcome (The Seeger Sessions) [American Land Edition]We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions available on iTunes

Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

Sound Opinions listeners know they can always count on a heated conversation when it comes to The Boss. Bruce Springsteen came out with a new album this week (the 18th of his career), We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. This time around, the singer pays tribute to folk artist Pete Seeger, and Jim and Greg completely disagree on whether or not it is worth your time. Greg became a Springsteen fan early on, but has been disappointed in his rock hero in recent years. However, he asserts that We Shall Overcome is Springsteen's best album since Nebraska. He appreciates the more down-to-earth production style and political messages of the songs. He gives it a Buy It rating. Jim, on the other hand, states that this record literally makes him sick to his stomach. He has never been a Springsteen fan, but has occasionally given a favorable review to albums like Devils in Dust. He finds this Seeger tribute musically and lyrically conservative, and basically just completely pathetic. He does not want to hear Springsteen do folk songs ("Froggie Went a Courtin'," anyone?) and wishes that Springsteen followed in the path of Billy Bragg and Wilco, who paid homage to another folk hero, Woody Guthrie. Unlike that album, this one gets a Trash It from Mr. DeRogatis.

JimGreg
Go to episode 22
dijs

Greg

“One by One”Wilco

One of Dylan's motivations for moving to New York was to meet his hero Woody Guthrie. And decades later, Guthrie continues to inspire musicians. In fact, Greg says one of the best performances of Wilco's entire career is their cover of Guthrie's tune "One by One" from the 1998 album Mermaid Avenue. And that's saying something, since Greg literally wrote the book on Wilco. As a result,“One by One”goes into the Desert Island Jukebox this week.

Go to episode 279

Greg

“Ooh La La”The Faces,The Faces

After talking about the Isley Brothers' extensive box set earlier, it reminded Greg of another box set he recently received by British rockers, The Faces. The band, which included members Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, was often perceived as a group of drunken rogues and were most famous for their song "Stay With Me." Even though a number of the key members are now long gone, the group influenced acts like Wilco and The Replacements with their English rock sound. Despite their rowdy reputation, their song lyrics indicate that they were actually just young men afraid of having their hearts broken. For this episode's Desert Island Jukebox pick, Greg wanted to play the title track from their last album, "Ooh La La" that really highlights Ronnie Wood's singing as well as his songwriting skills (he co-authored the track with bandmate Ronnie Lane.)

Go to episode 509
lists

Shelved Albums

On this week's show, Jim and Greg stick it to the man — or, more specifically, the record companies. They discuss the phenomenon of major labels pulling the plug on established artists. The most recent victim is Nellie McKay, whose album Pretty Little Head was denied release by Sony Music. McKay wanted to release one version, Sony wanted to release another, and after the“Pretty Little”singer told her label to take it or leave it, they left it. Of course, upon hearing the advance copy, our hosts can't necessarily blame them.

Whether you enjoy the music or not, McKay's situation does pose an interesting question of how much creative control an artist has while under major label contract. In Jim's words:“As long as there have been major labels, there have been executives deciding that they know better than the artist.”What are some of the other lost albums that fell prey to the big bad record company? Jim and Greg list off some of their favorites.

  • Butthole Surfers, After the Astronaut
  • Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  • Brian Eno, My Squelchy Life
  • Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • The Velvet Underground, VU
Go to episode 10

The Best of 2007… So Far

Jim and Greg just couldn‘t wait until the end of the year to start picking their favorite albums, so they’ve decided to name their 2007 mid-year best.

Go to episode 81

Best Driving Songs

For many of us summer equals a road trip. And a road trip equals great Driving Music. During this episode Jim and Greg play their favorite driving songs.

Go to episode 188

Funeral Songs

The complete top five funeral songs, according to the Register:

  • James Blunt, "Goodbye My Lover"
  • Robbie Williams, "Angels"
  • Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley, "I've Had the Time of My Life"
  • Bette Midler, "Wind Beneath My Wings"
  • "Pie Jesu"

We asked our Sound Opinions listeners this same, morbid question. Here are some of the“swan songs”you told us about via email or message board:

  • Santo and Johnny, "Sleepwalk"
  • The Buzzcocks, "Everybody's Happy Nowadays"
  • Curtis Mayfield, "Freddie's Dead"
  • Jeff Buckley, "Corpus Christi Texas"
  • R.E.M., "Try Not to Breathe"
  • Jeff Buckley, "Satisfied Mind"
  • Tom Waits, "Come On Up To The House"
  • Peter Gabriel, "I Grieve"
  • Joy Division, "In a Lonely Place"
  • The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"
  • Alice Cooper, "I Love the Dead"
  • Talking Heads, "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)"
  • Billy Bragg and Wilco, "Remember the Mountain Bed"

Greg

Jim and Greg were forced to think about their final day as well. Greg goes first (since Jim predicts he actually will). He decides he wants Sound Opinions guest John Cale's cover of "Hallelujah" to be played at his funeral. He calls it the 20th century version of "Amazing Grace". Although Cale's version strays from Leonard Cohen's original, Greg thinks the message remains intact: "I made a lot of mistakes, but it was all worthwhile."

Jim

Jim predicts that even at his funeral he won't be able to resist one last chance to be sarcastic. He chooses an irreverent version of Frank Sinatra's classic "My Way." Jim shares Hoboken roots with“Ol' Blue Eyes,”but he feels he shares a lot more with Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious. So all of you Sound Opinions listeners who plan to come out to mourn on that fateful day will get to enjoy this punk cover.

Go to episode 47

The Best of 2009… So Far

Lists are just too much fun to do them only once a year. Here are Jim and Greg's mid-year best album lists.

Greg

  • St. Vincent, Actor
  • Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
  • Amadou & Mariam, Welcome to Mali
  • The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love
  • Maxwell, BLACKsummers'night
  • Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • Mastodon, Crack the Skye
  • Dan Deacon, Bromst
  • Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz

Jim

  • Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
  • The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love
  • Lily Allen, It's Not Me, It's You
  • Morrissey, Years of Refusal
  • Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
  • PJ Harvey and John Parish, A Woman a Man Walked By
  • Moby, Wait for Me
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz
  • Passion Pit, Manners
  • Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  • Metric, Fantasies
  • K'Naan, Troubadour
  • Cursive, Mama, I'm Swollen
  • Bob Dylan, Together Through Life
  • Leonard Cohen, Live in London
  • St. Vincent, Actor
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
  • Mastodon, Crack the Skye
  • Sonic Youth, The Eternal
  • U2, No Line on the Horizon
  • Wilco, Wilco
  • The Handsome Family, Honey Moon
  • Art Brut, Art Brut vs. Satan
  • Peaches, I Feel Cream
  • Screaming Females, Power Move
  • Dan Deacon, Bromst

A message from Jim: The following, LISTED IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, is my tally of albums mid-year in 2009 that have all warranted 3.5 stars or more on the Chicago Sun-Times‘ 4-star ratings scale (making them all very enthusiastic“buy its”on the“Sound Opinions”scale). I will mention that these are in no particular order (sorry, but that’s reserved for the year-end list), that this list is not all-inclusive (I will no doubt catch up with quite a few discs released earlier in the year by the time I tally the year-end list) and, also, because this always confuses people, THESE ARE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. Yet. But they're all really, really, really good albums.

Go to episode 190

The Best Songs of the Millennium - Mixtapes

Jim and Greg like to end every year with a good old-fashioned mixtape (presented as a new-fashioned mp3 stream). But this year they decided to go even further and compile their favorite songs of the entire decade. They pick highlights to play during this episode, and their entire playlists are below. You can also stream their full mixtapes:

Go to episode 214

The Best Songs of 2011 - Mixtapes

As 2011 comes to a close, it's a great time to think about the songs that defined the year. Jim and Greg have compiled their favorite songs into mixtapes. During the show you'll hear a small selection, but luckily you can stream both mixes in their entirety. And you can make your own.

Happy New Year from Sound Opinions!

Go to episode 318
rock doctors

Rachel

Next up Drs. Kot and DeRogatis call another patient in from the waiting room. Rachel from Chicago, IL describes her musical symptoms as that of being stuck in a rut. She explains that she hasn't purchased any music in the past few years, and only listens to albums or mixes that her friends give her. Rachel is eager to improve her musical health though, and is willing to take her medicine — however bad it tastes. In order to steer Jim and Greg in the right direction, Rachel gives her medical/musical history . She counts U2 (during the Joshua Tree-era) and Tom Petty as two of her favorite artists, and explains that she really appreciates melody and lyrics in her music.

Dr. Jim gives the first prescription. He clues into Rachel's heartland rock leanings, but also wants to challenge her more. He decides to give the patient a dose of Wilco. Like '80s-era U2 and Tom Petty, Jeff Tweedy and the members of Wilco are strongly influenced by guitar-based American folk and rock. There is a strong emphasis on lyrics and on telling stories of the American condition. But like U2, who chose to work with avant-garde producer Brian Eno on The Joshua Tree, Wilco can also be very experimental. Jim finds this is especially true of their last album A Ghost is Born.

Dr. Greg is up next. He suspects that one of the things Rachel likes so much about her favorite music is how anthemic it is. Both Bono and Petty are strong frontmen that get a rise out of their audiences. He believes this is also the case with the music of Montreal band The Arcade Fire. In fact, U2 opened up their last tour with a performance of the song "Wake Up" off their debut album Funeral. Again, the Arcade Fire might be a little more stylized than what Rachel is used to, but Greg hopes she will appreciate their epic sound.

A week later, the patient returns. Rachel relays that she is feeling a bit better, but is not totally cured. She realized that some of the Wilco and Arcade Fire songs were actually already in her iTunes collection without her even knowing it. Rachel enjoyed both albums, but not completely from beginning to end. She liked the more anthemic songs on Funeral like "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Crown of Love," but found some of the tracks a little noisy. However nothing was as noisy as Wilco's 15-minute experimental jam "Less Than You Think." But, even Jim and Greg agree that it's OK to skip past that“test”to more traditional pop/rock compositions like "Theologians" and "The Late Greats." Rachel doesn‘t think she’s replaced her favorite standards, but looks forward to keeping up with these two bands and getting more new music like… The Shins (up next in the show).

Go to episode 61

Surgery Soundtrack

surgery-tools "Physician heal thyself," the adage goes. But, sometimes even doctors need some outside expertise, especially when it comes to music. That's where the "Rock Doctors" come in. Every once and a while, Jim and Greg don stethoscopes, un-shutter the Rock Docs clinic, and help a listener in need of musical assistance. They've suggested music for shopping and music for training, but this time the stakes are high. Dr. Michael Frumovitz is a surgeon and the associate professor of GYN oncology at MD Anderson in Houston, TX. He submitted a new patient form asking Drs. Kot and DeRogatis to prescribe new music he could listen to during surgery.

Dr. Frumovitz shares his musical preferences (melodic indie pop ala Wilco and Vampire Weekend without a lot of dirty guitars ala The White Stripes) and explains why traditional pop music provides a better background than ambient music. He also admits that surgery is a team effort, so the prescriptions can't be too abrasive. So much for the surgeon ego myth.

Jim prescribes a self-titled album by Phox, a self-described“gaggle of goofy wizards performing minor illusions and bigtop music”from Wisconsin, while Greg prescribes Atlas by the indie rock quintet Real Estate. Dr. Frumovitz is instructed to put these records to work in the Operating Room, and after a couple of weeks they see how the medicine goes down. Unfortunately, he and his team found Phox a little too sleepy for surgery, save a couple of tracks. But Real Estate was a real winner.

Do you need to see the Rock Doctors? Or know someone who does? Fill out a new patient form and send to interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 445

Valentine's Day Emergency

Jim and Greg open up the Rock Doctors' clinic for the next segment. They take an appointment with two listeners for a Valentine's Day emergency. Andrew and Kelli are a young couple from Chicago with only one major relationship problem: music. While Andrew is music obsessive, always on the search for something new and underground, Kelli is happy sticking with her favorite radio favorites. And as Andrew points out, for the most part his girlfriend's music is stuck in that dreaded decade: the 70s. Kelli admits to a fondness for bar music like Boston, Styx and Journey, but is open to new stuff as long as it's upbeat and fun. She finds a lot of her boyfriend's tastes (Wilco, Radiohead) to be too cerebral and boring. So, it's Jim and Greg's task to find something they will both enjoy.

Greg prescribes The Latest by Cheap Trick. He knows a lot of people dismiss this band for being cheesy, but he stands behind their smart lyrics, progressive compositions and terrific drumming. It seems like The Latest should be the perfect remedy, however neither Andrew nor Kelli are tremendously fond of it. Surprisingly, this record is even too cheesy for Kelli. And while Andrew admires the band for rocking out so hard for so long, he won't be attending any Cheap Trick shows anytime soon.

Jim prescribes the self-titled debut by La Roux. He loves the British duo's smart electronic pop. Jim didn't see anything like La Roux on either Kelli or Andrew's chart, but thinks radical treatment is necessary. He's right; the couple loves the record. Kelli got her dose of dance music, and Andrew got his artiness. And they won't have to break-up over rock anytime soon.

Go to episode 219

Pat

In the HMO-free universe of the Rock Doctors, everyone is entitled to better musical health. This week's patient is Pat from Chicago, IL. Pat wrote to Sound Opinions H.Q. for advice on how to get better acquainted with hip hop, and we immediately set her up for an appointment with Drs. Kot and DeRogatis. Pat explains that she's generally fairly hip to music, preferring doses of Bob Dylan, Wilco and Galaxie 500. But when it comes to hip hop, she's clueless, and in an effort to expand her musical horizons and have some music in common with her rap-loving nephews, she asks for some guidance.

Greg gives the first prescription. He's not sure if his approach will be too radical, but judging from Pat's tastes, he decides to go out on a limb. He recommends the patient listen to Outkast's fourth album Stankonia. Greg admits to Pat that some moments might be slightly too "gangsta" or misogynistic for her, but he hopes that the first-rate songwriting and bold beats of tracks like "Ms. Jackson" will win her over.

Jim's prescription is 3 Feet High and Rising, the classic hip hop album by De La Soul. Jim thinks Pat will respond well to the creative stories being told by the three geeky hippies from Long Island. He also thinks she will appreciate some of the more recognizable samples, like Hall and Oates' song "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)."

A week later Pat finishes her treatment and reports back to the doctors. She starts off by breaking the bad news to Greg: Stankonia is not for her. She felt there were too many misogynistic moments like the song, "We Luv Deez Hoez," and wouldn‘t feel comfortable sharing this album with her nephews. But, on the brighter side, she really enjoyed the De La Soul album. It’s definitely something she could see herself listening to in the future, and she particularly liked the song, "Eye Know," which samples both Steely Dan and Otis Redding. So, while the treatment wasn't a total success, Pat is on the road to better musical health. And, more importantly, she now has more hip bragging rights with her friends.

Go to episode 90
news

Music News

These days it's not unusual for pop stars to simultaneously be topping the charts and filling the court dockets (T.I., Lil Wayne). But it is unusual for a commercial, family-friendly star to have such infamy. Singer/songwriter Bruno Mars has the #1 song in the country, "Grenade," and he's been all over mainstream TV this year with appearances on The Today Show, Saturday Night Live, Ellen and Glee. Now he's pleading guilty to cocaine possession charges, so Jim and Greg are interested to see if this affects his popularity. Our guess? It won't.

After Wilco's first label, Reprise, refused to put out their critically acclaimed 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, many people thought they should abandon the major label system. Now, almost a decade later, they're doing it. Wilco is leaving the Warner subsidiaries to form dBpm Records. It will be run by the band's manager, with distribution provided by ANTI-.

Oscar-winning composer John Barry died last week at age 77. The Guardian claims he's as "pop as the Beatles," and Jim and Greg agree. It's hard to imagine the '60s without Barry's brassy, melodic orchestrations. He was not only the man behind the iconic Bond music, but his compositions were critical to many other films. So to honor Barry, Jim and Greg play the theme to Midnight Cowboy.

Go to episode 271

Music News

First up is the news that one of music's most successful major label artists is going indie. Jay-Z gave notice to Def Jam, the label for which he formerly served as president. He plans on being a“a completely independent artist.”But, given his 360 deal with Live Nation, Jim and Greg aren't sure this statement carries much weight.

In other hip hop news, rapper T.I. has headed off to jail this week. He‘ll be serving a one year and one day sentence on a weapon charge. While this is not the first time an esteemed musician has served prison time, it is unique that both T.I.’s albums and singles are thriving on the Billboard charts. So while the "King of the South" takes a time out, his career moves on full steam ahead.

After years of singing about darkness and pain, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is showing his softer side. He has helped a 27-year-old fan raise more than $800,000 for a life-saving heart transplant. By asking fans to pay $350 for pre-show access and $1000 for dinner with the band, he has been successfully helping Eric de la Cruz to reach his goal. In one day alone, Reznor took in $250,000, proving he really is the master of web marketing and distribution.

Music fans were sad to learn of the death of Jay Bennett this week. The multi-instrumentalist and former Wilco member died at the age of 45. While the cause of death is not known, what is known is Bennett's great talent. Many people take their image of him from the Wilco film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, but Jim and Greg both believe Bennett will be sorely missed and stress the positive effect he had on the band's music. In honor of Jay Bennett, they play "Pieholden Suite," from Wilco's 1999 album Summerteeth.

Go to episode 183

Music News

Jim and Greg begin the show with a discussion of Lollapalooza and other summer festivals. There's Coachella in California and Bonnaroo in Tennessee, but Chicago is shaping up to be the major destination for music fans this year. The Lollapalooza lineup is impressive, with a diverse mix of bands including Lolla vets The Flaming Lips and Red Hot Chili Peppers, indie favorites Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins, and Chicago natives Wilco and Kanye West. Plus, the city will be home to two of the biggest independent music festivals: The Pitchfork Music Festival, featuring Destroyer, Art Brut, Spoon and post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma, and the Intonation Music Festival featuring The Streets, Bloc Party, Lupe Fiasco and a rare appearance by 13th Floor Elevators founder Roky Erickson.

Go to episode 21

Music News

Jim and Greg start off the news segment by discussing Police drummer Stewart Copeland's blog posting about the band's first reunion gig. Despite critical praise, Copeland was dissatisfied by their performance to say the least. Jim and Greg wonder how dissatisfied fans were, especially those who dropped hundreds of dollars to see Copeland, Sting and Andy Summers.

Of course, the men of the Police aren't the only musicians requesting big bucks this summer. An East Hampton concert series called Social is asking fans to pay $15,000 to see five shows by Prince, Tom Petty, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel and James Taylor. Audience members will be treated to celebrity chefs, art displays and Moroccan pillows rather than the usual uncomfortable stadium seating. This elitist trend in music is disheartening to Jim and Greg, and they wish more consumers would react as people in Italy recently did. After charging between $200 and $1200 for tickets to a show in Rome, singer Barbra Streisand received protests from Italian consumer groups. She recently had to cancel this show, though her camp has not admitted the protests were a cause.

The band Wilco is making news for more than just appearing on Sound Opinions. The Chicago rock group struck a deal with Volkswagen to allow the car company to use its music in a new series of ads. This practice is becoming more and more frequent as bands have fewer and fewer options to get their music heard, but Wilco is one of the last bands Jim, Greg and their fans expected to“sell out.”But, what makes this marketing strategy unique is that VW will feature not just one, but six different Wilco songs in six different ads. The commercials will be released almost like singles, making them as much ads for Wilco as they are for the cars. The band has already received its fair share of criticism, but thankfully they've got family on their side.

Go to episode 80

Music News

First in the news, Jim and Greg discuss a story emerging out of the next decade. They talk to Wired writer Eliot Van Buskirk about his recent piece on the "Copyright Time Bomb." As Eliot explains to Jim and Greg, the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 poses a new threat to the major label system. Songs copyrighted after 1978 can be terminated by the author in 2013 (1979 in 2014, etc.) That means that if a musician sold his or her work to a label after 1978, they can choose to take it back and manage it independently in the next decade. Many labels rely on back cataloge revenue, so this will be a big hit to them. In addition, it may be another reason an artist chooses to go it independently and without a label.

Jim and Greg couldn't welcome 2010 without looking at the decade past. The 2000s brought us N'Sync and the boy band explosion, but they also ushered in great change in terms of business and technology. As Jim and Greg discuss, advances in digital music were at the heart of all the decade's major news-from lawsuits (Metallica vs. Napster, RIAA vs. consumers) to innovation in sound, marketing and distribution (Wilco, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails). And while the Aughts were a time of industry revolution, there wasn't necessarily a revolutionary sound. Jim thinks people may have been too shocked by technology to create something comparable to a punk, disco or grunge movement. But he and Greg are hopeful that something great is just waiting to come out of a basement near you.

Go to episode 214