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Music Feature
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
M. Ward is familiar. He may, in fact, be the familiar-ist musician of this century. His music is plucked from the furthest reaches of your long-term memory, from songs you can't quite remember, from bands whose names get lost on the tip of your tongue. He swivels from Johnny Cash to Chuck Berry to Roy Orbison, and channels Buddy Holly just as well in his own work as he does in a cover of Holly's "Rave On...
Music Feature
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
On the phone Rachael Yamagata is chatty, almost dangerously so. She repeatedly gets so overexcited by whatever she's giggling about that she walks straight into people on the street. This time, she is talking about her love of the Style Network show "Clean House. I have these weird tendencies toward designing furniture and rearranging furniture, and cleaning. If you give me a vacuum, I'd clean you...
Music Feature
Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009
If you make up a story about Leo Kottke, it's probably true. The 63-year-old roots singer/songwriter has lived a sweeping epic, a life incomparably colorful. As a boy, his family moved across 12 states. As a college dropout, he hitchhiked across the country. A firecracker damaged his hearing in one ear. Service in the Naval Reserve damaged his hearing in the other. He'll be glad to tell you about all of this, too. On stage, the acoustic guitarist will burst into four-minute monologues about how difficult it is to kill chickens, or about the dangers of stealing amplifiers. His shows are two-parts music and one-part backcountry Spalding...
Music Feature
Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008

Serious about New Year’s Eve, change

When they arrive in Milwaukee, treat them as visiting professors. After all, they're experts. The Crystal Method has performed 13 of the last 14 New Year's Eves, and they know more about throwing that year-end party than you could ever hope to. If you don't think you're having a good time at their Dec. 31 performance at the Rave, you are probably wrong. "We know people are coming out to have a good time," says Scott Kirkland, one half of the big-beat outfit. "We take it seriously...
Music Feature
Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008

Juliana Hatfield tells all (and then some)

The music is the same, but the context is so much different. Juliana Hatfield's still-girlish voice has deepened with age, and gone is the whimsy of "Spin the Bottle." It has been replaced by something more raw and confessional, and ultimately that much more sad. If you listen closely to Hatfield's new album, buried in that chipper jangle pop, you can hear the time. In the minds of her fans, perhaps, Hatfield's only struggles over the past 15 years have been the adolescent foibles and satiric disasters in her lyrics. But in the last few months, Hatfield has revealed herself with the...
Music Feature
Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

Magnetic Morning’s clumsy beginnings

There are many things that Magnetic Morning is good at. Naming things is not one of them. Until a mere month before the group's debut EP was scheduled for release, the team of Swervedriver/Toshack Highway frontman Adam Franklin and Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino took the moniker "The Setting Suns." Unwittingly, they had taken the moniker from another band-the already-existing Setting Sun-who desperately wanted it back. More recently they had naming issues with their brooding...
Music Feature
Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008
Few bands seem to have more contempt for the structural formality of sheet music than San Francisco's Deerhoof, a trio whose rhythms waver with all the precociousness of lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki's schoolgirl voice. So it was with some irony that the first taste of Deerhoof's latest work was a single released as sheet music well before a recorded version surfaced.
Music Feature
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008
You aren't anybody if you aren't recording with the Black Keys. Producer Rick Rubin, himself a somebody, recently tapped the band to back Billy Gibbons for a few songs on ZZ Top's next album. Gibbons and Rubin join R&B legend Ike Turner and super-producer Danger Mouse on a growing list of The Black Keys' recent collaborators.
Music Feature
Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008

Bon Iver records up north

It's a stirring story, one that wraps Justin Vernon's album into a neat package. It starts when Vernon's first band breaks up, and it ends in the Northwoods. Jobless and sick, with nowhere to live and a desire to be alone, Vernon stayed (rent-free) in his father's hunting cabin through the winter. He chopped wood, brooded for a while, and then created a spectacular solo debut. Vernon's For Emma, Forever Ago doesn't merely capture a desperate Wisconsin winter, it captures a man resigned to its snowy, woodland loneliness. That's the true-to-life legend of Bon Iver-the dreariness of life expressed through an album full of dreary optimism, written by a man whose stage name is a play on the French words for "good winter." At least, that's the true-to-life legend that people keep telling . . .
Music Feature
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008
The Supersuckers are the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world. It says so right on their Web site. And album covers. And merchandise. "At least 25% better than the next best band," says Rontrose, the band's one-named guitar player, tongue firmly in cheek. Some time around Thanksgiving, Rontrose and crew will celebrate their 20th anniversary as punk's answer to hedonistic, cowboy-hat wearing, meat-and-potatoes American rock 'n' roll. Twenty years is long enough for the band, born in Tucson, Ariz., to have moved to Seattle before the grunge movement took full steam . . .

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