The Durham Performing Arts Center gets 2010 off to a fine start in terms of concert bookings with a great one -- Wilco, who will play there on March 27. Tickets are $35 and go on sale Friday. Expect a very fast sellout.
It might not be in the paper, but surely you didn't think I could let the last Sunday of December go by without inflicting my year-end top-10 upon ya. So without further ado, here is one ink-and-electron-stained wretch's take on the 10 best albums of 2009. As we wave bye-bye to The Naughties, here's to good sounds and copasetic vibes in the '10s.
(1) Avett Brothers, "I and Love and You" (American/Columbia) -- A record of surpassing loveliness and depth, "I and Love and You" exudes plainspoken wisdom. It's also the most accessible album the Concord group has ever made, catchy and heartfelt with just enough eccentric edges to defuse any sellout accusations. And it even debuted in Billboard's top-20. There is no reason to suspect the Avetts will do anything but keep getting better.
(2) Wilco, "The Album" (Nonesuch) -- in which Jeff Tweedy stares down his own self-loathing and achieves something like reconciliation and maybe even redemption. Guitarist Nels Cline is an essential part of the equation, turning the songs' gritty emotional content into lovely strings of sonic pearls. A sneaky good record that gets better with repeated plays.
(3) Bat For Lashes, "Two Suns" (Astralwerks) -- Natasha Khan sure doesn't make it easy on herself, structuring these 11 songs as mini-epics that skirt right up to the edge of overdone without ever crossing the line. She even enlists operatic art-pop cult figure Scott Walker as duet partner on the album-closing "The Big Sleep," and lives to tell the tale. Captivating.
(4) Grizzly Bear, "Veckatimest" (Warp) -- This Brooklyn band's mysteriously titled second album transposes Brian Wilson's sunny California pop to more monochromatic East Coast environs, with spectacular results. A moody masterpiece.
(5) Japandroids, "Post-Nothing" (Polyvinyl) -- Take Husker Du's old-school precision-trio thrash, compress that down to a guitar-drums duo, turn it up to 11 and here's what ya get. Crushing but oh so much fun.
(6) Megafaun, "Gather, Form & Fly" (Hometapes) -- The Triangle's best band wowed audiences worldwide with its second album, plus an exuberant live show that is truly life-affirming in the non-corniest way imaginable. Freak folk seldom involves intense feedback flipouts, let alone gorgeous pop hooks, but Megafaun's got it all.
(7) Metric, "Fantasies" (Last Gang/Arts & Crafts) -- So sweet it'll rot your teeth, "Fantasies" has a sonic vibe that's pure new-wave Euro-trash. But frontwoman Emily Haines is a take-no-guff rocker, and this is hardly a retro move.
(8) Regina Spektor, "Far" (Sire) -- Conventional wisdom holds that "Far" represents Spektor's sellout move, and it is the most immediately accessible thing she's ever done. The upside is that it's also her least-indulgent album, focused and all-around good.
(9) Peter Holsaple and Chris Stamey, "Here and Now" (Bar-None) -- There might be another dB's album in our lifetime. But even if there's not, we have the co-leaders' first full-length collaboration since 1991, and it's wonderful.
(10) Wheedle's Groove, "Kearney Barton" (Light in the Attic) -- Old-school funk, of the sort you might hear in a blaxploitation soundtrack. It's killer, especially the gospel-throwdown version of Soundgarden's "Jesus Christ Pose."
There's special 4th of July holiday programming still going on, including fun TV show marathons and local and national fireworks celebrations. Other stuff...
Wilco: Ashes of American Flags (6pm, Sundance) - If you're lucky enough to have the Sundance Channel, you can see the 2008 film by Chicago rock band Wilco, featuring interviews and concert footage. Totally jealous.
Dave Chapelle: Killin' Them Softly (9pm, Comedy Central) - Chapelle's classic June 2000 show from the Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C., includes bits on "Sesame Street," terrorism, gangs, and voting.
Eli Stone (10pm, ABC) - Eli helps a roomservice waiter who was laid off from a failed company that paid its CEO a multimillion-dollar golden parachute deal.
Immensely sad news out of Illinois tonight: Former Wilco member Jay Bennett has died of unknown causes at the much-too-young age of 45. He passed away in his sleep early Sunday morning and an autopsy is being performed, according to a statement from his friend and sometime collaborator Edward Burch.
During the seven years he played in Wilco, Bennett played a major role in that band's evolution from alternative-country to more sophisticated art-pop. But his time in Wilco ended badly, forcibly removed in a series of events covered in the movie "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." Earlier this month, Bennett sued Wilco's Jeff Tweedy alleging breach of contract and unpaid royalties.
After leaving Wilco, Bennett made some fine records, especially 2002's lovely "The Palace at 4am (Part I)." But he could be frustrating, too. I remember seeing an absolute train wreck of a show in Chapel Hill where Bennett talked between songs a lot more than he played (and it wasn't exactly entertaining talk).
Not too far into the show, people started leaving. Bennett didn't seem to care. "Good night," he called out to one departing couple as he lit a cigarette. "Be sure and tell everybody about what a great time you had!"
It was like he couldn't help it, and incredibly depressing. I left early that night, too. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna fire up "The Palace at 4am" and try to think more about that and less about the last show of his I saw. And you can find some videos here to try and do the same.
Wilco unveiled a new song on "The Colbert Report" last night, aptly titled "Wilco the Song."
It's a catchy tune done in the traditional Wilco style. And like a lot of other songs that come from the brain of singer Jeff Tweedy, it's difficult to understand what this one is about.
Perhaps "Wilco the Song" is about drugs or television or rock 'n' roll, themes Tweedy has tackled in the past. Or maybe it's about the election. I really have no idea.
The song does contain one line that seemed to convince the show's host that it will be a No. 1 hit: "Colbert will love you, baby."
Check it out:
Friday night's Wilco concert in Cary began with a fine opening set by Bon Iver, the band led by former local Justin Vernon, rocking up the quiet and lovely songs from Bon Iver's gorgeous debut album. Onstage, Vernon didn't refer directly to his time living in the Triangle. But he did give a shout-out to an old pal here during the set-up to the one cover he played -- a Talk Talk song that Vernon said he was introduced to by his friend "Phil."
That was Phil Cook, who used to play with Vernon in DeYarmond Edison (and who is now one-third of Megafaun). I saw Cook in the crowd afterward; told him that I never would have pegged him for a fan of Talk Talk, an arty new-wave band known for chilly electronic atmospherics.
"Oh, dude, I love Talk Talk!" Cook enthused. "'Spirit of Eden,' what a great album!"
As for Friday's headliner, here's the review of Wilco's set -- fabulous as always.