Track Premiere: Nathaniel Bellows – “How High”

For the past six years, published poet, novelist, visual artist, and musician, Nathaniel Bellows has been writing libretti for the composer Sarah Kirkland Snider. In fact, their last release, Unremembered (2015), was inspired by 13 of Bellows’ poems and illustrations.

Now back out front for his sophomore album, Swan and Wolf, Nathaniel Bellows offers a collection of ten new original songs. Today’s premiere track, “How High,” is from the new record and showcases the intricate complexity of Bellows art. One listen to Bellows deep sweeping voice and carefully thought out instrumentation, which features Timo Andres on piano, will keep your attention extremely focused. The song has a slow building catchy conclusion that ends with layered vocals of Bellows pleading “say how high.”

Bellows music moves beyond the ear as each track from Swan and Wolf is paired with one of his illustrations that integrates the song lyrics. This gives the project a depth you won’t find with many releases. Swan and Wolf will be released on March 30th and can be pre-ordered now on Bellows Bandcamp page HERE.

Nathaniel Bellows Website
Nathaniel Bellows Facebook

Track Premiere: The Captain Of Sorrow – “Siamese Scars”

Quiet can always be loud – it just matters how you tune in! That is the feeling that overtakes you in today’s premiere track from the Danish band The Captain Of Sorrow. “Siamese Scars” has an intense rhythm that is driven from the singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer of this record, Hans-Christian.

His calm demeanor rushes over you while he quietly tells the story of the issues an adult with alcoholic parents faces when meeting similar people at a rehab center. The song surges until a swirling chorus takes over and ends the track. Not the most uplifting material but the buildup in the song will keep your ear in place.

The smoldering strength found on “Siamese Scars” is the hook that pulls you into The Captain Of Sorrow. The track is instantly memorable as Hans-Christian’s sound could be compared to the hush vocals of a Dave Bazan fronting the slowcore stylings of the group Spain.

“Siamese Scars” can be found on The Captain Of Sorrow’s first international release, Racetrack Babies, which will be available this Friday, January 26th on Musikministeriet Records. If you like this song, we recommend seeking out the full release.

The Captain Of Sorrow Website
The Captain Of Sorrow Facebook


Video Premiere: Romeo Dance Cheetah – “The Air Guitar Song”

At some point, we have all done it. A sweet rhythmic head toss, a powerful pelvic thrust, a double handed slide complete with a power chord strum in perfect synchronization. That is right – the AIR GUITAR!

Today’s video premiere of “The Air Guitar Song” from Romeo Dance Cheetah takes things to an entire different level because he is the real deal and the 2010 US National Champion of air guitar. In fact, the video today features some of the best air guitars in the world today, which hold multiple national and world titles. You want some official air guitar? Just watch the video now!

How do you achieve this guitar greatness?! Well, the World Air Guitar Competition is taking place this weekend in Oulu, Finland. Also, “The Air Guitar Song” video will be seen by all during the Oulu Finland Music Video Festival which runs in conjunction with the competition. It is going to be a great weekend!

Now, Romeo Dance Cheetah is not stopping with this video. He is launching his music career with the debut release of his comedy rock album, Magnificent Man on October 27th. Think Darkness drinks with Ween and then gets totally crazy with Tenacious D. Yep – that is Romeo Dance Cheetah!

Clearly, TFN wishes Romeo and all the competitors luck this weekend as the purpose of the Air Guitar World Championships is to promote world peace. According to the ideology of the Air Guitar – “Wars would end, climate change stop and all bad things disappear, if all the people in the world played the Air Guitar. This is why the whole universe is invited to play the Air Guitar for world peace at the end of the competition.”

With that said, TFN completely endorses giving it your best Hendrix, Prince or Slash right now. World peace and a Flying V can’t be stopped!

Romeo Dance Cheetah Website
Romeo Dance Cheetah Facebook

Air guitarists featured in the video:
Matt “Aristotle” Burns (USA) 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 US Champ, 2016 World Champ
Kareel “Your Daddy” Blumenkrants (RUS) 2015 World Champ
Nanami “Seven Seas” Nagura (JPN) 2014 World Champ
Eric “Mean Melin” Melin (USA) 2013 World Champ
Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard (USA) 2011 US Champ, 2012 World Champ
Craig “Hot Lixx Hulahan” Billmeier (USA) 2006, 2008 US Champ, 2008 World Champ
Zac “Mr.Magnet” Monro (GBR) 2001, 2002 World Champ
Nicole “Mom Jeans Jeanie” Sevcik 2017 National Champ
Jason “Lt. Facemelter” Farnan 2013 National Champ
Dan “Bjorn Turoque” Crane star of “Air Guitar Nation” the movie and host of the World Air Guitar Championships
Multiple air guitarists from the world-famous French Air Band “Airnadette”
Air guitarists from around the US, Taiwan, England, France, Japan, Russia…etc.

Track Premiere: Lung – “Hypochondriac”

We are super excited to premiere the new track, “Hypochondriac,” from the Cincinnati band Lung. Comprised of Kate Wakefield (vocals, electric cello) and Daisy Caplan (drums), this duo will take you by surprise with their fierceness, addictive pulsing undertones and honest indie rock n roll.

The band formed in early 2016 but neither Kate or Daisy should be called rookies. Kate has been writing and performing her music for several years while Daisy was a member of Foxy Shazam. As Lung, they released an EP last summer but now are ready to take the indie world by storm with their debut full length – Bottom Of The Barrel. The record is self-released and officially will be out this Saturday March 18th.

“Hypochondriac” is a great first taste from Lung as it captures their powerful energy and intensity while showcasing both member’s talents. The driving rhythm will have your foot tapping while Wakefield’s commanding vocals will not let you turn the volume dial down. Her voice definitely pushes the track and has similarities to a Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses) or PJ Harvey.

Lung will be celebrating the release of Bottom Of The Barrel with a full tour (dates below) and a local album release party this Saturday, March 18th (Details HERE). Also, make sure to play “Hypochondriac” loud, seek the full length out from the band, go see them live if they tour your town and then be sure to share Lung with your friends – you won’t be sorry!

Lung Website
Lung Facebook

3/17 Louisville, KY Eiderdown
3/18 Cincinnati, OH Northside Tavern, Album Release Party
3/19 Knoxville, TN Pilot Light
3/20 Chattanooga, TN JJ’s Bohemia
3/21 Marietta, GA Swayze’s
3/22 Dothan, AL The Plughouse
3/23 Tallahassee, FL Rotton Collective
3/24 St. Petersburg, FL The Bends
3/25 Cape Coral, FL Nice Guys Pizza
3/28 Margate, FL O’Malley’s
3/29 Stuart, FL Brewetarian
4/1 Gainesville, FL Civic Media Center
4/2 Jacksonville, FL Shantytown Pub
4/3 Savannah, GA Space Station
4/4 Charleston, SC The Tattoed Moose
4/5 Charlotte, NC The Station
4/6 Greensboro, NC Hellraiser Haus
4/7 Roanoke, VA Leftovers
4/8 Harrisonburg, VA Macrock
4/10 Baltimore, MD Skramden Yards
4/12 Philadelphia, PA LAVA Space
4/13 New York, NY The Footlight
4/14 Springfield, MA Western Mass Recovery Learning Communities Center
4/14 Easthamptom, MA Flywheel
4/15 Holyoke, MA Mount Holyoke College
4/17 Boston, MA O’Briens
4/18 Portland, ME Poland Street
4/19 Salem, MA Koto
4/20 Bangor, ME Central Gallery
4/21 Manchester, NH Shaskeen
4/22 Marlboro, VT Marlboro College
4/23 Albany, NY Pauly’s
4/25 Buffalo, NY Dreamland
4/26 Pittsburg, PA Spirit
4/17 Athens, OH The Union
4/28 Columbus, OH The House With No Name
4/29 Dayton, OH Blind Bob’s
5/17 Yellow Springs, OH Kaleidoscope (on air)
5/18 Louisville, KY The Green Room
5/19 Evansville, IN PG
5/20 Paducah, KY Festival d’Paducah
5/21 St. Louis, MO TBD
5/22 Columbia, MO Cafe Berlin
5/23 Omaha, NE O’Leavers
5/24 Sioux Falls, SD Total Drag Records
5/25 Fargo, ND The Aquarium
5/26 Grand Forks, ND Ojata Records
5/27 Duluth, MN Blush
5/31 Dubuque, IA The Lift
6/2 DeKalb, IL 7th Street Space
6/3 Chicago, IL Subterranean
6/4 Grand Rapids, MI Mulligan’s Pub
6/5 Kalamazoo, MI Shakespeare’s Lower Level
6/7 Ann Arbor, MI Far House
6/8 Detroit, MI The Sanctuary
6/9 Toledo, OH Ottawa Tavern
6/10 Morristown, IN MSMFest

Track Premiere: Smug Brothers – “Hang Up”

Today we have a special track premiere from Dayton, Ohio veteran band Smug Brothers. The group is coming back at the world on March 31st with their 10th release, Disco Maroon! The 15-track full length once again features their lo-fi roots but definitely branches out from there with plenty of power pop and indie rock nuggets.

“Hang Up” is one of those 2-minute numbers from the new album that captures the essence of Disco Maroon with its memorable guitar riff and corresponding drum beat. Singer Kyle Melton has never sounded more desperate and sincere in the same breath, as when he questions the reality of his situation and sings “how did I ask you to just hang up?” That plead will bring you back to every time you replay events in your head and contemplate – did I make the right decision?

With a bursting 90’s era pop of Superchunk and present day off kilter lo-fi modern groove like Connections and Lost Boy?, “Hang Up” offers the right mix to rock all of your indie woes away! Check the track out today and be sure to support Smug Brothers when Disco Maroon is released on March 31st.

Smug Brothers Facebook
Gas Daddy Go! Records

Premiere Friday Fire Track: Special Teams – “SunFire”

This weeks Fire track is feeling a bit exploratory. A collection and collaboration of musicians, Special Teams is self described as a rock hip hop trance experiment. Special Teams was born from The Long Count, a song cycle/visual project assembled by artist Matthew Ritchie and music by Aaron & Bryce Dessner of The National. The Long Count featured a particular piece entitled “Bull Run” that featured vocals from one Kelley Deal (R. Ring, The Breeders).

Special Teams’ Bandcamp page gets a little more in depth on the origin and creation-with the descriptions written by Kelley herself-of “SunFire” but the track is quite interesting. While it’s not something you would traditionally find on The Fire Note we think it will work for your Friday.

“SunFire” has a long stream of consciousness feel with Kelley Deal’s wispy and lowered vocals. The looping samples equate the song to an idea from The Avalanches, an odd How To Destroy Angels track, an interlude for an indie art-punk album, or a piece for meditation.

King Baby Nuxhall has seemed to elude that we will hear more out of Special Teams. While not many details have be given, more tracks with different artists will be on the way along with a possible physical release. Enjoy the track below!

Special Teams Bandcamp
Special Teams Facebook

MidPoint Music Festival 2016 Preview: September 23-25 (Cincinnati)

We are excited to head back down to the MidPoint Music Festival in Cincinnati this year. MMF has developed a reputation as the place to discover contemporary music, find the next big thing, and meet your new favorite band so it seems only natural for TFN to showcase this event.

This year takes a more “outdoor festival like” approach as there will be four outdoor stages with music running from afternoon till eleven o clock. All the stages are within two blocks of each other, newly centralized to the Main Street entertainment district. Thanks to the generosity of Eli’s BBQ, the fourth stage at MidPoint Music Festival will be open to the public and free of charge! MMF traditionally embraced all of the superb music venues in the area to host artists and typically music ran well into the morning hours. This organizational shift should improve your ability to catch the artists you want to see and reduce Fitbit steps.

2016 brings a solid lineup to hear that include headliners Band of Horses, Future Islands, and JJ Grey & Mofro. Wolf Parade, Lucero, Frightened Rabbit, Bob Mould, Car Seat Headrest and Nada Surf are also in the lineup that brings a total of more than 75 local, regional, national and internationally acts to the streets of Cincinnati.

If this is your first experience with MidPoint don’t think that this year’s quality artist lineup is a fluke. Past performers have included The Afghan Whigs, OK Go, The Head and The Heart, The Breeders, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Real Estate, The Raveonettes, Panda Bear, Kurt Vile, Kishi Bashi, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Speedy Ortiz, Deaf Heaven, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Best Coast, The Walkmen, Dinosaur Jr., Andrew Bird, Okkervil River, Phantogram, Surfer Blood, and Heartless Bastards. MMF know what they are doing and once again will provide a great experience for artists and fans.

There are still day tickets available at the MMF website below. The Fire Note will also be highlighting the artists we think you shouldn’t miss on Wednesday so check back. We want to make sure you are completely prepared if you are taking in the music this weekend!

MidPoint Music Festival Website
MidPoint Music Festival Facebook
MidPoint Music Festival Twitter
MidPoint Music Festival Instagram

A Box Full Of Records: Rating Wilco

No matter how jaded and cynical a music writer becomes, and there’s plenty going on in the music and journalism businesses to leave one jaded and cynical, most of us have artists whose history and/or music hits us in our warm spot, a place of personal satisfaction and joy. For instance, I’ll always have a soft place in my heart and mind for the music and performances of Todd Rundgren; he was my first concert when I was 16, and albums like Something/Anything and A Wizard, A True Star got me through those challenging years of adolescence.

For me, Wilco is another one of those artists, and I’m sure a part of the emotional connection that I feel to Jeff Tweedy and his music is that when I lived in St. Louis and wrote for a number of music publications there, his earlier band, Uncle Tupelo grew from playing tiny shows in Cicero’s Basement Bar (which these days has been renovated, it’s the Duck Room inside of Blueberry Hill), to national touring after signing to a major label just in time for a glorious break up, playing two sold-out shows at Mississippi Nights, at the time a premier live music venue, now a holding area for a riverboat casino.

But while many of us suspected that the strong songwriting and fun performances of Uncle Tupelo would take them to grander heights, for a long while there Tweedy was just another guy in town that was part of a vibrant, growing music scene. You could wander into Euclid Records and Jeff would be the guy to ring you out, while quietly judging your choices for purchase. I have a memory of Tweedy selling me my copy of Husker Du’s double album, Warehouse: Songs and Stories… but it was a long time ago and maybe I’ve combined two events in my tattered mind.

As a music writer, I had the privilege of interviewing Tweedy and his partner Jay Farrar in their crappy upstairs apartment in their hometown, Belleville, IL, where I had to climb over discarded pizza boxes on the back porch and wait with them in the kitchen for their coffee to cook before they would think about answering questions, and they seemed more interested in what I was listening to (I think it was a test) than they were in discussing their influences with me.

Lots of people in that town were signing deals, making records and hoping to make the big time, Uncle Tupelo and a few others really made it. When Uncle Tupelo broke up, I got to collect a few quotes from the principles that ran without a byline in RollingStones’ Random Notes music news column, and then got to interview Tweedy and the first iteration of Wilco in their manager’s office, which was above an abandoned pharmacy on a side street in Maplewood, MO, not one of St. Louis’ more tony neighborhoods, to advance their debut album, A.M., for Billboard Magazine. But I best remember Jeff hanging around, using backstage passes to The Replacements show at the American Theatre to drink up the band’s beers, and showing up at venues to see his favorites touring through town.

One brief encounter has stayed with me over the years. I had interviewed Richard Thompson on the phone to advance a show, and then wore my favorite Uncle Tupelo t-shirt to the concert. Tweedy approached me to see if I was planning to use my backstage pass to go back and greet the artist, while wearing his band’s t-shirt. He seemed sweet, ambitious and hopeful. That moment wasn’t lost on me, and came to mind last year when Tweedy produced Thompson’s latest album.

So here’s a somewhat sentimental look at the ten studio albums from Wilco, listed from least to the one’s I think everyone should own (if you’re not going to own them all).


wilco-am Wilco
Reprise Records [1995]

When he left Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy managed to bring along all the auxiliary players, including John Stirrat on bass, who’s the one other member to play on all of Wilco’s albums, drummer Ken Coomer, and multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston on mandolin, dobro and banjo. To give the rockers some additional kick they brought Bottle Rockets guitarist and songwriter Brian Hennemann into the studio to play the leads. While you can feel Tweedy & Co. pushing back against the alternative country leanings of the last UT outing, Anodyne, to create something fresh and more in touch with more of a mid-western rock vibe on tracks like “Casino Queen” and “I Must Be High,” which interestingly talks of saying “goodbye.” While not a huge commercial success, you could feel Tweedy testing out directions for his own musical creativity, as he was now for the first time the sole leader, and ambition apart from the purist mythos that had become associated with Tupelo.


wilco-the-album Wilco
Wilco (The Album)
Nonesuch Records [2009]

The latest and most familiar 6 person line-up of Wilco solidified in 2005, and first recorded together on the live concert album, Kicking Television, that same year. Tweedy and Stirrat were joined by drummer Glenn Kotche, keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, Pat Sansone, who plays keyboards, guitars, whatever’s called for, and Nels Cline, the electric guitarist who brings his exotic and experimental jazz leanings to the band’s occasional interest in push the noise envelope. Sky Blue Sky was their first studio effort as a unit, but by the time they recorded Wilco (The Album), everyone had settled in a had a greater sense of their place and they delivered an album that feels like it was designed to fit alt/rock and college playlists. The goofy title track, “Wilco (The Song),” a duet with female folk artist Feist, “You And I,” a noisy rocker in “Bull Black Nova,” and some melodic airplay bait in “You Never Know,” “I’ll Fight” and “Sonny Feeling.” It’s a solid enough outing, but it’s the one that got labeled by some as “Dad rock.” Ouch.


wilco-star-wars Wilco
Star Wars
dBpm/ANTI- [2015]

Wilco had been busy for a year touring to celebrate their 20th year of existence with two large compilations, What’s Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994–2014 and Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994–2014, when they surprised fans with this free digital download in mid-July, with the CD and vinyl version offered for sale at a later date. Opening with the minute plus of noise that is “EKG,” Star Wars found the band loose and loud, reminding folk that at heart they were just a rock & roll band. And, they obviously enjoy playing these songs, since “Random Name Generator,” “More…,” “The Joke Explained,” “Cold Slope” and “Pickled Ginger” have remained in their recent set lists. This one, RollingStone Magazine called the “anti-Dad rock” record, and as such it’s got that and a lot of fun noise going for it.


wilco-schmilco Wilco
dBpm/ANTI- [2016]

This, of course, is the new one. You can read The Fire Note’s full review HERE. But for the goofy title, an homage to American pop songwriter Harry Nilsson who title one Nilsson Schmilsson, and the close proximity to Star Wars, Schmilco finds Tweedy introspective and rhapsodic on songs like “Normal American Kids,” “If Ever I Was a Child,’ “Cry All Day” and “Shrug and Destroy.” This one is already starting to grow on me, but it’s a record with depth and texture that requires some time.


wilco-whole-love Wilco
The Whole Love
dBpm/ANTI- [2011]

If Sky Blue Sky sounds like a band coming into full possession of their powers, The Whole Love, with it’s long 7-plus minute opener, found the band expanding on what had come before. Great pop song tendencies wrestle with the band’s inclination toward edginess, so you get melodic, fun, compact experiments like “I Might,” “Dawned On Me,” “Born Alone,” “Standing O,” and the title track. The set closing 12 minute song, “One Sunday Morning,” dedicated to the boyfriend of Pulitzer Prize winning author Jane Smiley, is just another example of the highly literate, imaginative and quirkiness that underlies the artistic inclinations of Tweedy and Company.


wilco-sky-blue-sky Wilco
Sky Blue Sky
Nonesuch Records [2007]

This was the first studio outing with the current 6-piece Wilco, exhibiting what we could expect from Nels Cline on lead guitar quite apart from the energy and creativity of the live album where he was fleshing out the parts of others. So you get this wonderful juxtaposition of the earthy roots rock vibe at the beginning of “You Are My Face,” with a near Grateful Dead feel, and then it’s more progressive textured arrangements of keyboards and guitars as the tune develops. And there’s the beautiful dual guitar solos of “Impossible Germany” with it’s unique, dare I say “unlikely” lyrics. Add that to one of the best break-up songs ever, in “Hate It Here,” plus the fun walking with a bounce blues of “Walken,” and the meditative “On and On and On” and you have a real fan favorite, and an important statement of a band that has come into their own. Again. And, from here on out, if you think of yourself as a Wilco fan, you should really own this one and those to come.


wilco-being-there Wilco
Being There
Reprise Records [1996]

Given that A.M. didn’t fare as well, either commercially or critically, as Tweedy had hoped for his new band, what followed appeared to be a time of artistic ferment, creative stretching and reflection. The fruit of that work is the band’s only double length studio album, introducing new member Jay Bennett as a lead guitarist who also had keyboard skills, and experimenting with bigger, bolder production values that included the inclusion of horns. The end result was an album that still had one foot planted firmly in the alt/country roots of the band, represented by the stringed contributions of Max Johnston and two songs with Bob Egan on pedal steel, and another foot in the world of rock experimentalism, from power pop guitar hooks to more psychedelic leanings, which led one writer to compare the album favorably to the Rolling Stone’s Exile on Mainstreet. That claim of genius still lingers around this album, as songs like “Misunderstood,” “Kingpin,” and “I Got You (At the End of the Century)” were long considered Wilco concert mainstays, easily becoming audience sing-alongs. By now Tweedy had moved to Chicago and started a family, he and the band were looking forward not backwards, not to Uncle Tupelo, not to anything. As he confessed in the album’s noisy opener, “Misunderstood,” “you still love rock & roll,” before later spitting out his recriminations in the phrase, “I’d like to thank you all for nothing, nothing, nothing at all.”


wilco-ghost Wilco
A Ghost Is Born
Nonesuch Records [2004]

With Jay Bennett, fired/departed following the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (see the film “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” to make up your own mind, for the first time Jeff Tweedy took on the sole lead guitar role in Wilco. If this is bit of a stretch for the guy who started out as the bass player in Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy rose to the occasion making up for the kind of melodic precision often associated with the lead guitarist’s role with a sense of passion and an innate feel for the instrument’s potential for sonic bombast. Tweedy, Stirratt and drummer Glenn Kotche (who came on board for YHF) and for the first time keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen; Wilco’s current shape was taking form, but a continued interest in experimentation, sonic exploration and a desire to escape the boundaries of any defined genre suggest a broad musical palette. Take the ten-plus minutes of “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” which begins with a techno bed that a friend has labeled Kraut-rock (think German band Kraftwerk’s 70’s hit “Autobahn”), but breaks out mid-song with a hard rocking guitar that, I swear to God, mimics the chord changes in heavy metal band Deep Purple’s song “My Woman From Tokyo.” Sometimes I wonder what all Tweedy was listening to in all those idle hours at the record store. Follow that up with the piano pop and string arrangement for “Hummingbird,” and you’ve got a band that’s not playing by conventional rules, even as they hope that you’ll “remember to remember me.” Of course that same friend I mentioned, reminded me that this disc is marred by the ten-plus minutes of electronic noise, static and feedback that close out the song “Less Than You Think,” which is evidently included because it’s a sonic representation of what Tweedy experiences in a migraine attack. But, like me, you are free to skip that shit, to the better, much beloved songs like “Handshake Drugs,” “Theologians” (which I try not to take personally), and “The Late Greats.”


wilco-summerteeth Wilco
Reprise Records [1999]

I confess, this is my go-to Wilco album, the first one I’m likely to play if I’m in the mood to hear Tweedy & Co. Part of it is that I have a real warm memory of taking my now grown children to see Wilco open for R.E.M. in one of those big outdoor sheds; it was the first sense that I had that my favorite local (okay, he had moved north) musician was about to make the big time. Of course, this wasn’t the record that made that happen, but it does contain a few of my favorite Wilco songs of all time: “A Shot In the Arm,” “Via Chicago,” “She’s a Jar,” “ELT (every little thing),” and “I’m Always In Love.” Jay Bennett co-wrote with Tweedy much of the music for this one along with three quarters of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and ended up playing a lot of the instruments in the studio. I suppose some of the emotional connection for me is that this was Tweedy at his most accessible, all bubblegum poppy with more ba-bah and doo-wah backing vocals than you hear on any other Wilco effort, and all too soon after leaving Wilco and producing a number of solo albums (my go-to is The Magnificent Defeat, 2004), Bennett died due to an overdose of painkillers in 2009. Perhaps, some times absence does truly make the heart grow fonder. In the years since the release, we’ve learned that not everybody loved the Tweedy/Bennett working relationship, and the dominance of keyboard/mellotron sounds here, which led to discord and Ken Coomer leaving as the band’s drummer. Surely a lot of the genius that many discovered on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was already on exhibit here and on Being There, but if you were to divide the existence of Wilco into B.C. and A.D., ground zero would be no doubt the next one.


wilco-yankee Wilco
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Nonesuch Records [2002]

If you own one Wilco CD, the smart money bets it’s this one. And here the story of the album’s release has often been a bigger story than the actual music. Turns out Reprise Records, having watched the three previous albums fail to meet sales projections, decided YHF was not likely to be any more successful and cut their losses by dropping the band, while paying them for the album unreleased. The band began streaming the finished product on their website, and as it began garnering positive fan and critical response, the band was signed to Nonesuch, and the album released the following year. That Wilco managed to get paid twice for the same album, and that both Reprise and Nonesuch were affiliated with a Time Warner Bros., was an irony that was not lost on anyone. Add the iconic album cover photo of the Marina City buildings that overlook the Chicago River, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has enough back-story to provide inspiration for artists in their interactions with corporate realities. In this David vs. Goliath story, David was an alternative rock band whose time had come. Of course, this was a tense time in the life of the band, as exhibited in the movie, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco,” which started the day Tweedy decided to replace drummer Ken Coomer with Glenn Kotche, who he had met working on a side project with Jim O’Rourke in the band Loose Fur. Kotche became the new drummer and O’Rourke was brought in to mix the album, opening up a break in vision between Tweedy and Bennett, who left the band shortly after the album was finished. Now sometimes the drama overwhelms that artistic impulse, but here it has seemed to benefit Tweedy and Co., as the band in the midst of numerous pressures, come together to create a band worthy of all the hype. “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” is the heart-breaker that opens the record, but song after song here deliver the unique and pervasive musical vision of a band that can pretty much do whatever they set their mind to: from the string section opening of “Jesus, Etc.,” about singing “sad, sad songs,” to the pop sentimentality of playing music down by riverfront in St. Louis in “Heavy Metal Drummer,” where Tweedy recalls “I miss the innocence I’ve known/playing KISS covers, beautiful and stoned.” Other delights include “Kamera,” “War On War,” “Ashes of American Flags” and “I’m the Man Who Loves You.” It’s a winning proposition from top to bottom. I’ve heard Wilco labeled the American Radiohead and the like, but none of those comparisons do justice to the unique and special musical history defined across these ten albums… Lots of left turns, loops and twists on this journey, each one worthy of consideration. Pick your own favorite, there’s always room to find your own connections in a Wilco album.

-Feature by Brian Q. Newcomb

Not for the Masses…Best of August 2016 Playlist

I have been creating these monthly playlists on my Not for the Masses…profile on Soundcloud for some time now and sharing them in various Facebook music-related group pages. This marks the first time my monthly favorites will appear on The Fire Note!

I try to share the newest stuff, but occasionally something catches my ear that came out a few months ago, but I just have to share it. So just because this is the August list, doesn’t mean all the featured tracks have been released or shared on Soundcloud this month; they are just songs I heard this month.

Got it? Good. Make sure to read the quick descriptions below the playlist – Let’s get started! – by Daniel Taylor

10 Tracks Mined From the Depths of Soundcloud That You Need to Hear

Track 1 –“Sky Chase” by Sleepies: Quirky post-punk rock. Their newest LP is top of my Best of 2016 albums.

Track 2 – “It Before” by Lost Boy?: Ultra-catchy fuzz/power pop. New LP out soon! Available for preorder.

Track 3 – “Burn Barrel” by Spray Paint: Apocalyptic doom punk with catchy beats. Dark stuff but fun.

Track 4 – “Close to the Sun” by Cotton Mather: Cotton is back and it sounds like if The Beatles never quit.

Track 5 – “Bad Boys Die in the Bath” by Christian Fitness: Edgy post rock from creator of Future of the Left.

Track 6 – “Sunrise Alphabet” by Honey Radar: More lo-fi gold from the band that is part GBV and Elephant 6

Track 7 – “Sä Pidät Jäätelöstä” by Joni Ekman: The Finish Eric’s Trip. Good and fuzzy.

Track 8 – “Lauren” by Kaz Mirblouk: Some nice fuzzy jangle rock. From his 1015 EP.

Track 9 – “Attention Ritual” by Ex-Cult: Fantastic, blistering hardcore punk stuff. These guys do punk right.

Track 10 – “Rayguns” by The Peep Tempel: Sharp Aussie punk.

Track Premiere: VoirVoir – “Stupid For Now”

Today’s track premiere spotlights the second single from Bethlehem, PA band VoirVoir (pronounced v-wah v-wah). The quintet is set to release their debut, There Are No Good Goodbyes, on July 15th from our good friends Fleeting Youth Records. VoirVoir is all about delivering intense vocals, providing rock out guitar at the right moment and lyrically challenges us to all do better.

“Stupid For Now” follows this theme as lead singer/guitarist Matt Molchany reflects on the track’s history: “Stupid For Now” is actually the very first song April and I wrote and played together. This first song of ours was about feeling doomed to repeat mistakes and trying to become self-aware enough to stop yourself, or at least laugh at how imperfect you are. The whole process felt like a vacation– we discovered how much we loved writing together, even if the subject matter was self-critical and cautionary.”

This track definitely succeeds because of their connection, as you can feel the emotion pour out of the song with its very Built To Spill type structure and sweeping sound. Make sure you listen right up to the end as the track intricately winds down in style and will have you quickly hitting replay. You can pre-order There Are No Good Goodbyes right now at Fleeting Youth HERE where you can grab the album digitally or on a limited Pro-dubbed white ink on purple-tint cassette tape with full-color 3-panel j-card.

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