CONCERT REVIEW: Wilco at The Mission Ballroom in Denver

Wilco won’t let you down. Over the course of twenty-five years and eleven albums, they’ve established a fervent fanbase. Their live performances have a solid reputation; they’re known to play at least two-hour sets at every show, and they always include some fan favorites along with the songs from whatever album they’re promoting. In fact, they even have a spot on their website to enter song requests for different shows.

Jeff Tweedy. Photo credit: Mimi Norton

When I saw them on Nov. 19, frontman Jeff Tweedy announced that it had been twenty-five years and two days, to be exact, since their first show. When he said this, I was applauding just like everyone else, but I found myself regretting that it was only my first time seeing them. I went to the show on my own, and the two hours I spent alone in the front of the crowd were some of the most stunning and exciting in recent memory. I hope I’ll see them again and again.

Even though I’d read a lot about Wilco’s live shows previously, their performance at the Mission Ballroom blew all of my expectations away. After a decade of rotating through various members, their current lineup has been consistent since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. Each member was highlighted various times during the show, and most of them had incredible solos throughout the set.

Jeff Tweedy. Photo credit: Mimi Norton

In addition to the most iconic member of the band, Jeff Tweedy, I was especially excited to see guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Glen Kotche. Cline was named “a true guitar polymath” by Rolling Stone magazine on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, and it watching his iconic solo from “Impossible Germany” was a highlight of the show. Kotche was also named to Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Drummers, as they named him “a Jim Keltner-John Cage hybrid” for his talent and originality. Around the half-way point of the show, Kotche was dripping in sweat as his drumming drove one song after the next. Although Tweedy, Cline, and Kotche usually get most of the attention, each member put so much energy into the performance; it seemed like they were having just as good of a time as the audience.

Nels Cline. Photo credit: Mimi Norton

Most of the songs they played in Denver came either from their latest album, Ode to Joy, or 2004’s A Ghost is Born. Beyond those two albums, they threw in plenty of crowd favorites, such as “War on War,” “Hummingbird,” “Random Name Generator,” “Forget the Flowers,” and of course, “California Stars.”

Wilco’s sound and lyrics speak to various emotions around living, loving and so much more. As evidenced by the increasing size of venues they play on each subsequent tour, they manage to keep attracting more fans because of their consistently impressive shows and versatile music. They care so deeply about their craft, and it shows. For me, Wilco will always reign supreme.

Concert Review: Twin Peaks with Post Animal and Ohmme

Cadien and Clay of Twin Peaks go at the guitar back-to-back. Photo by Jane M. Harris.

On the brisk and clear night of Saturday, November 2nd Chicago indie rock took Colorado by storm. Twin Peaks headlined Englewood’s The Gothic Theatre, supported by Post Animal and Ohmme. All three groups hail from Chicago, a city well-known for some of the nation’s best early blues and jazz, as well as its current thriving and exciting alternative scene. There is no doubt that the groups that took the stage in Englewood this November are following in the footsteps of the Chicago greats.

Macie Stewart of Ohmme. Photo by Jane M. Harris.

Ohmme, composed of the power duo Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham and supported on the drums by NNAMDÏ, took the stage first, with an attentive crowd waiting to hear some fresh sounds. They jumped right in with heavy, purposeful guitar riffs and alternating harmonies that were left hanging in the air above the audience long after their songs had ended. Ohmme’s music and onstage energy showcased an interesting juxtaposition between relaxation and erraticism. The tracks “Fingerprints” and “Water” left the crowd especially mesmerized with their unique and earnest pockets of a cappella harmonies book-ended by intense guitar strumming. The orange and blue lights bouncing off the walls of The Gothic Theatre only aided in amplifying the surrealist quality of Ohmme’s music. They made my Saturday night feel like a dream.

Dalton and Jake of Post Animal. Photo by Jane M. Harris.

Next up was Post Animal, and while they set the stage for their set, Clay Frankel of Twin Peaks performed an impassioned reading of an excerpt from Milton’s Paradise Lost to the excited and anxious crowd. It was an interesting artistic decision, but one I could get behind. With the opening chord of Post Animal’s popular track “Ralphie” the audience has no choice but to lose it a little bit—the energy exuded from the band was contagious. With Dalton Allison on bass, Javi Reyes and Matt Williams on guitar, Jake Hirshland on guitar and keys, Wesley Toledo on drums, and all members singing, the band looked more like a brotherhood than just a group. During the fan favorite “Dirtpicker” they were assisted by Twin Peak’s Cadien Lake James’ guitar playing, catalyzing some intense moshing from the audience. Throughout their set Post Animal mixed neo-psychedelic sounds with heavy guitars and lulling vocals, tremendously succeeding in exciting and entertaining the audience.

After an impatient set break that I spent anxious to get back into the photo pit, the members of Twin Peaks sauntered on stage, beers in hand and smiles radiating. Twin Peaks is the collaborative effort of Clay Frankel and Cadien Lake James on vocals and guitar, Jack Dolan on vocals and bass, Colin Croom on vocals, keys, and guitar (oh my!), and Connor Brodner on drums. Their large following in the indie and alternative rock community was clearly visible in the excitement and energy in the audience at The Gothic Theatre—I saw multiple fans scramble to put their new “Twin Peaks 2019 North American Tour” t-shirts on over their outfits right before the set.

Colin of Twin Peaks. Photo by Jane M. Harris.

With their current tour Twin Peaks are celebrating the release of their latest album, Lookout Low, featuring “Dance Through It,” “Better Than Stoned,” and “Unfamiliar Sun.” Their new music highlights new horn and keys arrangements while recalling the well-loved garage rock-tendencies of their earlier work. At the Englewood show the new tracks were received with excitement and enthusiasm from the audience, but the older tracks were truly beloved. When Twin Peaks launched into their older hit “Wanted You” the crowd took to impassioned moshing under the pink, red, and blue lights that spilled from the venue ceiling to the floor. After the set and the encore everyone screamed for more.

From left: Twin Peak’s Cadien, Clay, and Jack. Photo by Jane M. Harris.

Watching the way Twin Peaks performs their music— with fervor and determination—and how they interact with their openers and audience, it is clearly visible that music, for them, is a labor of love. Though it was a cold fall night, everyone in the theater was an endearing kind of sweaty from all the singing and dancing. All three acts of the night put everything they had out onto the stage. I left the concert feeling warm and euphoric, excited to blast Twin Peaks, Post Animal, and Ohmme in the car the whole drive home.


Twin Peaks recently released a new single, “Our World.” Post Animal also released a new single, “Safe or Not: Extended Mix.” After listening to those, be sure to check out the collaborative effort of members of Twin Peaks and Post Animal: Column.

Upcoming tour dates for Twin Peaks can be found here.

New Playlists from WORM Radio

DJs Mia Zuckerberg and Carol Holan have been busy curating playlists for their show, WORM Radio, every Tuesday at 8:00. Their first playlist focuses on songs for when you have a gay crush, but don’t want to ruin the friendship. Listen to hear some great songs by Mothers, Fiona Apple, and Mazzy Star.

If you’re not feeling that, check out the playlist from their second show about driving alone for the first time. This playlist features an amazing range of artists that include Nina Simone, Perfume Genius, and Franz Ferdinand!

Make sure to tune in to WORM Radio every Tuesday from 8-9 for more good tunes!

CONCERT REVIEW: Noname at the Ogden Theatre 3/6

In his long printed cardigan and sweats, Noname’s opener Elton Aura emanated a calm confidence that set the tone for a night of powerful lyricism. He knew exactly how to excite the young audience as he lit a joint on stage and passed it down (to be immediately intercepted by the stage security) after taking a few puffs himself. Elton concluded his set how he began it, having us repeat after him “Elton! How it do!” and then exited the stage to loud cheers. The audience hummed with energy as we began the wait for the person who had brought us all to the Ogden Theatre this Wednesday night.

As Noname’s band slowly set up their instruments I was struck with how vulnerable they were in that moment. Only feet of distance between us at the front of the crowd and the band members shuffling equipment around the stage, the lights were too bright and the room too quiet to create the invisible barrier of power that usually separates an audience and the performers.

The crowd screamed as the band finally began to play, slipping easily behind their instruments. The lights lowered and the neon sign that emblazoned the back wall lit up pink to read “ROOM 25” (the name of Noname’s new album.) Noname then entered rapping,

Maybe this the album you listen to in your car when you driving home late at night / Really questioning every god, religion, Kanye, bitches

The crowd jumped around singing along. Waiting for the line we all knew was coming and then screaming it in unison with her as she reached it:

“YOU REALLY THOUGHT A BITCH COULDN’T RAP, HUH?”

Noname calmly danced across the stage as she rapped in a loose white dress with a black flower print, black leggings, and red converse. Her long curls were stretched and tucked behind her ears, showing off her round youthful face. She seemed much younger than her 27 years. When she finished “Self” she greeted the cheering audience with smiles and warmth. She made her way through a set of hit after hit from both Room 25 and her 2016 mixtape Telefone. Everyone in the house danced and struggled to keep up with her quick voice. The night was punctuated by a few moments of quickly-relieved tension. Frustrated with a perceived lack of enthusiasm, Noname halted the show early on to teach the audience how to show that we appreciated her performance.

“If I spit a bar that you think is especially hot, give me an “ooooh.”

 

She started to rap again, her first line was met by a loud “ooooh” from the audience.

She stopped again.

“No, that was nothing,” she said, “that line was nothing. Let’s try again.”

She went back into the song, now seemingly satisfied with the crowd’s responses and continued with the concert with a smile on her face.

There was no lack of enthusiasm when we heard the opening bars of “Diddy Bop.” This song was my favorite part of the concert. That’s not a very revolutionary thing to say—it is her most popular song by far. But for good reason! Besides the catchy beat, the lyrics are beautifully sweet and nostalgic—a love letter to the Chicago of her youth. The crowd of majority high school and college students couldn’t relate to growing up listening to B2K, wearing FUBU, and hitting the diddy bop but it didn’t matter. The song creates a warm feeling of happy wistfulness and reminds me of my childhood despite my memories being so far away from that of Noname’s. I love that Noname doesn’t shy away from the specifics of her experience in an attempt to make her song more relatable. The essence of her song, of being young and being intent on taking advantage of the fleeting chance to be irresponsible, resonated with all of us.

Noname kept her performance short and sweet, exiting the stage after less than an hour. The band packed up their instruments and walked off stage, but the lights stayed down and the audience stayed in place, eyes glued to the stage expectantly. Then, Noname returned to the stage and gave us one last song, sans music. Her roots in slam poetry were especially evident with just her words filling the room. That final encore left the audience reminded of the poetry that exists in hip-hop, especially in Noname’s music.

On April 5th Noname is releasing “Song 32”, a follow up to her track “Song 31” and she is currently finishing her international Room 25 tour.

Photos by Kenneth Hamblin III

CONCERT PREVIEW: Noname At The Ogden Theatre 3/6

Nonames powerful first music video: “Blaxploitation – A Film by Noname.”

Lauded for her lyricism and unique voice, Noname is one of the most promising new artists in hip hop. The Chicago rapper released her debut album Room 25 this past September. This release was highly anticipated due to the wide commercial and critical success of her 2016 debut mixtape Telefone which featured hits such as “Diddy Bop” and “Shadow Man.” On Wednesday, March 6th she will be playing at the Ogden Theatre in Denver.

Photo by Mark Horton/Getty Images.

 

SONG OF THE WEEK: The Hollies- “We’re Through”

The Hollies, Image Courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archive

In need of 2 minutes and 16 seconds of cathartic dancing-around-the-room-by-yourself bliss? Maybe you’ve been fiending for this feeling since the weekend ended. Maybe you’ve got some pent-up frustration because, hey, the block can suck. Maybe you just want to listen to a nostalgic bop. Fear not, The Hollies’ “We’re Through” will provide what you’re looking for. Though not one of The Hollies’ most popular hits, the number of listens to this song on Spotify has been climbing and climbing since its feature in an episode of Netflix’s most recent series, The Umbrella Academy (based on comics written by Gerard Way, lead singer and co-founder of My Chemical Romance). Its exposure in The Umbrella Academy was what brought me back to The Hollies and here I am now, listening to “We’re Through” on repeat this week.

The song, thanks to its deliberate bass, fingerpicking, and haunting, echo-y, but upbeat three-part harmonies, is perfect for momentarily letting go (of anything and anyone). Acknowledgement that “I should be better off without you…” is liberating! Get rid of toxic people and toxic relationships! Dance it out! (After a couple listens I begin to think this song is more likely to get me to make more changes to what ‘sparks joy’ in my life than Marie Kondo ever could.) The repetition of the mantra “We’re through, we’re through, we’re through” near the end of the song becomes therapeutic. The swell of the music and the shake of the cymbals at the end brings the sentiments of the song to a nice, final conclusion. Ultimately, we, as beings who want to be wanted and loved, sometimes have a hard time recognizing when others “never treat us tenderly.” Hopefully this song helps with a part of that realization process. If not, it’s still one hell of a bop—I hope you all enjoy. Cheers to t-minus 3 days until the weekend!


You can listen and groove to the song here:

 

Best Albums of 2018

Here are some of the SoCC writers’ favorite albums this year in no particular order:

Be The Cowboy – Mitski

If you can believe it, I didn’t like Mitski (of Bury Me at Makeout Creek era) at first. I thought her sound was too rough, too grating, somehow a little too angsty. Fast-forward two or three years, and songs from Be The Cowboy occupy at least a quarter of my weekly music rotation. I can’t give Mitski all the credit for that transformation; I’ve grown enough to learn to love Bury Me at Makeout Creek and Puberty 2. Still, Mitski’s own artistic development is crystal clear to everyone engaged with her art–– for proof, google Be The Cowboy and count the number of “Best of 2018” lists the album’s included in.

This album shines so brightly because it feels so honest. We know most of the songs are persona songs; few contain any autobiographical information about Mitski at all, and yet almost every lyric feels intensely personal & soaringly sincere (i.e. “and I am the idiot with the painted face/ in the corner taking up space”). Musically, Mitski experiments more on Be The Cowboy than ever before, which is explicitly evident on “Nobody” –– a disco-Daft-Punk-circa-R.A.M. track that is both extremely energetic and emotional, a panic attack coated in glitter.

I could write about this album forever, except I can’t. I’m about to get on an 8 hour plane ride, during which I will listen to Be The Cowboy in its entirety at least three times. I don’t necessarily suggest you do the same (your Mitski tolerance might be a little lower than mine), but you cannot sleep on this album. If you do, you’re depriving yourself of the joy of feeling validated in your own experiences through a voice, and an artist, from the realm of the divine.

– Paulina Ukrainets

abysskiss – Adrianne Lenker

 

You might recognize Adrianne Lenker’s stunning voice from the songs she’s sung with her band Big Thief. Her solo album abysskiss, released this October, is a hushed, focused, and beautiful account revolving around intimacy, death, and nature. Because her airy voice and finger-picked guitar are the album’s only audible sounds, her emotions are palpable and the listeners feels as if they’re sitting in the recording studio by her side. The album’s highlight is the song “symbol,” an ambiguous love story in which Lenker explores phrases and imagery as she echoes sounds with the words: “fly make flea, make haste, make waste, eight makes infinity / times I’ve tried to make breaks, embrace for the enemy”. During a year marked by seemingly incessant chaos and negativity, Lenker created a space for introspection, appreciation, and imagination with her stripped down musings about life.

– Mimi Norton

Isolation – Kali Uchis

While there were great albums that came out this year, the album that completely commanded my attention was Kali Uchi’s pop masterpiece Isolation. Uchis’ debut album Isolation has a nostalgic tinge that made it warmly familiar. While nostalgic, it strays from solely being campy throwbacks through its hybridity of genres. The sound is an entirely new animal in its eclectic fusion of soul, funk, and reggaetón. Isolation’s lyrical content is apt for the times, speaking to a year of political distress, escapism, and loneliness. While the instrumentals are upbeat, her melancholic voice and lyrics throw each song askew. This album has been the soundtrack of my year as a relatable emotional landscape and a source of empowerment. A song that particularly jumps out for me in the album is “Dead To Me” with biting lyrics that make Uchis diva of the year. She is taking pop in an entirely different direction, opting out of the sonic trends of 2018 and delving into the past to make an entirely unique sound.

– Maya Day

I’ll Be Your Girl – The Decemberists

If the lyrics “…Everything, everything, everything, everything, everything is awful” aren’t relatable to a college student experiencing a minor inconvenience, I don’t know what is. This song, aptly titled “Everything is Awful,” is the seventh track on The Decemberists’ newest album, I’ll Be Your Girl. The nihilism continues with lead singer Colin Meloy’s plea, “Oh, for once in my life…could just something go right?” on the first track, “Once In My Life” (also aptly titled), overtop synth beats and chords reminiscent of the music of New Order and Berlin. Questions of doubt, life’s meaninglessness, and embracing despair pop up in tracks throughout the album while also, inexplicably, appearing alongside “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes,” an eight-minute ballad about a mermaid (I think). “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes” returns me, a seasoned The Decemberists listener, to the lengthy epics “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” “The Crane Wife” parts 1 through 3, and their insane rock opera The Hazards of Love.

My favorite track, “Sucker’s Prayer,” showcases that good-old-Decemberists commentary on unrequited love, present on their older albums, with cheery chords opposing this chorus: “I want to love somebody, but I don’t know how.” That lyric, followed by “I want to throw my body in the river and drown,” presents an image so painfully full of aching, desire, and self-hatred. I may be very dramatic, but I almost fell out of my chair when I first heard it. “Sucker’s Prayer” thankfully brought me back to some earlier Decemberists tracks that have now been occupying my mind and Spotify queue for weeks. Overall, I’ll Be Your Girl, despite being an eclectic mix of songs experimenting with new styles and sounds, nonetheless draws from the best of their old music and projects their ideas towards the future and cements itself as one of my favorite albums of 2018.

-Jane Harris

NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES – Metro Boomin, Travis Scott, 21 Savage

Metro Boomin’s sixth studio album, NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES, redefined rap in 2018. The album’s sharp beats over ambient instrumentals forms a futuristic, yet familiar Atlanta sound.

 

[TOP SONG: Don’t Come Out the House (with 21 Savage)]

– Emily Faulks

Aviary  – Julia Holter

With the resurgence of vinyl and physical forms of music, the album as an art form has come back into style. Julia Holter’s latest album Aviary is not only a work of art; it stretches our ears into unknown shapes and sizes. Each of Holter’s songs feels like an album in itself. One moment we are wrapped in electronic, orchestral swirls, and then we land in a glitchy, spooky folk fairytale. Although it is hard to isolate individual tracks, “Voce Simul” exhibits this transformation of time through delicate sonic manipulation. Her songs are in constant conversation with one another. This is an album that I could write or think about for hours on end, discovering endless secrets embedded within pockets of sound. Holter guides us through the terrifying beauty of “Everyday is an Emergency”, which reflects on various sounds that occupy daily life, and how something as simple as a siren can affect us in multiple ways. These soundscapes are only strengthened by Holter’s usual thought provoking lyrics: “Firm in your mystery/ Will you remember the body?/ And what does it do to you?” Melding genres together with lucid craftwork, Aviary is so progressive that will certainly not be left behind in 2018.

Listen to when: you are ready to experience feelings that you’ve never had before.

– Lena Farr-Morrissey

 

SONG OF THE WEEK(END): Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds- “Burn You Up”

Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds performing at Globe Hall in 2016. Image Credit: Nikki A. Rae

This song has haunted me all week. From the deep, deliberate drum beat at the song’s beginning to the singer crooning, “You know it’s gonna burn you alive…burn you up, burn you up” at the bridge, listening to this track transforms me into a more melancholic version of myself. “Burn You Up” reminds me of a failed relationship and lost love I’ve never even felt nor experienced before. However, the song isn’t overwhelmingly sad. It’s tinged with sweetness, present in the way the guitar chords are somewhat reminiscent of bells ringing, the way the lead singer draws out certain words while keeping others short, and also for the way the lyrics “you called me darling when you broke my heart” are sung- simply, tenderly, and truthfully.

The simplest way I could explain this song to my friends in hopes they would add it to their Spotify queues went along the lines of, “Oh my god, it’s SO good. It goes through, like, three vibes during the song.” For lack of better phrasing, “Burn You Up” does go through multiple vibes. The song’s cyclical nature takes the listener through different technical and emotional sections of the song, only to return you exactly where you started. Listening to it feels somewhat like recounting a dream when you wake, sometimes the details are fuzzy, it might have been strange (but seemed totally normal), and you always end up back at the beginning.

Of all the tracks on the one album Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds have on Spotify, “Burn You Up” stands out, for me, as one of their most dynamic, and more emotional, songs. This song, though not too good at hyping anyone up for Winter Break, still serves as a good, chill listen as we near the end of fourth Block. Happy studying, procrastinating, and listening. Hopefully you enjoy the bittersweet “Burn You Up” as much I do!


You can listen to “Burn You Up” on Spotify with the link below:

A Few New(ish) Things to Hear & See

Earl Sweatshirt –– Some Rap Songs
This album doesn’t feel suited for taking apart. It’s full of seamless transitions from one jazz-beat and sample to another. Earl’s lyrics are significantly more dense here than on I Don’t Like Shit… or Doris, and in some ways, this contributes to some difficulty in approaching the album. Still, a single listen through the tracklist and the genius of the album and its maker become instantly clear. Maybe I’ll have more concrete things to say after a few more listens. For now, I let the album play out and wash over me, like a slow-moving tsunami I’ve not quite comprehended the magnitude of.
Bug Fight –– “Worm”
This is a recent single from Bug Fight, a band on the New Perfume label that is home to CC’s own Seal Eggs and the upcoming Honour Council album. Musically, “Worm” reminds me of Ought, with a sharp, pleasantly dissonant inflection in guitar and vocals. Lyrically, it brings me right to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, with lines like: “Onwards, upwards, till death or a conception of a different world.” The song lives in the abstract, but in an abstract that, even without totally understanding it, feels eerily reminiscent of the current cultural climate that surrounds me.
A$AP Rocky –– “Sundress” (directed by Frank Lebon)

Frank Lebon has been one of my favourite directors ever since I watched his video for King Krule’s “Czech One.” His video for A$AP’s recent single is just as innovative, moving endlessly through lo-fi Super-8-esque shots to disorienting (in the best way) animation. While I’m not a fan of the “jealous-ex-girlfriend-with-a-gun” narrative in the video, watching the video feels like a big breath of fresh air; in a climate that’s so invested in narratives, it’s so enjoyable to see as much emphasis on getting meaning from visual effects, rather than tropey storylines or characters. The song by itself is totally worth a listen, but if you’re gonna experience it at its fullest, watch the video.