Deerhoof Collaborate With Jeff Tweedy And Sons

This year the arty noise rockers Deerhoof have been releasing a series of collaborative singles — on which different vocalists sing on instrumentals from their 2011 album Deerhoof Vs. Evil. The latest 7″, “Behold a Raccoon in the Darkness”, features Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy singing over the instrumental for Deerhoof’s track “Behold a Marvel in the Darkness”.

The B-side, “Own It”, is a new recording from Tweedy’s side project the Raccoonists, a band that includes his two sons, Spencer and Sam. Check out the super fun lo-fi video for that song:

Jeff Tweedy Goes Solo In The District

Jeff Tweedy performing live in Washington D.C. (Credit: Francis Chung)
Jeff Tweedy performing live in Washington D.C. (Credit: Francis Chung)

Jeff Tweedy solo shows are pretty durn rare these days, especially away from Chicago, and more especially out here on the east coast. So it was an incredible treat to get the chance to see the Wilco-mastermind perform here in Washington D.C. at the historic Lincoln Theatre.

The entire set was nearly perfect: a mix of old classics from Summerteeth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born, intermingled with some newer fare from later albums, and even a few rarities tossed in. It was sparsely lit with a single spotlight, with a simple black curtain backdrop and a few guitars surrounding him in a half arc behind him. It was much like what I envision an old Bob Dylan acoustic show might’ve been like. It was at times both heartfelt and beautiful and yet surprisingly funny when Tweedy would cut wise with the sometimes overly-talkative audience. That Jeff Tweedy is one quick and witty dude.

And while there were many favorites from the night — “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” “Via Chicago,” “A Shot In The Arm,” “You Are Not Alone,” and a completely un-amplified rendition of “Acuff Rose” to close out the night — I was wholly enamored and taken with his acoustic performance of “Spiders (Kidsmoke).”

The version he played to open the entire show was so stripped down and re-imagined from it’s original Krautrock form that it even took me a few to figure out what song it was. But it was absolutely gorgeous, making me hear that song and it’s lyrics — now imbued with an even greater sense of melancholy and lonely stillness as he sings “It’s good to be alone” — in a totally new way. It truly set the tone for the rest of the superb show for me.

This mp3 here of that song is from the New York show at the Bowery Ballroom performed a few nights before I saw him (I couldn’t find my show yet)… But wow!

[Audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/Tweedy_SpidersKidsmoke.mp3]

I Used To Hate This Song: Wilco’s ‘You And I’

Now I kinda like it. This is one of my favorite quotes from the movie High Fidelity, still one of my favorite movies. Obviously, these are the words of record store owner Rob Gordon (played by John Cusack) as he admits to his ultra-hip music snob friends that he might actually be enjoying Peter Frampton’s “Baby I Love Your Way” — a song he used to once loathe.

When I first heard Wilco’s “You And I,” a new tune featuring Feist on the latest record Wilco (The Album), I felt it was easily one of the most blandly treated songs in the band’s repertoire. On paper, this song — in which Jeff Tweedy and Leslie Feist coo a sweet duet to each other — seemed like a no brainer; a surefire win. What’s not to like?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USjuOWLyWIQ[/youtube]

To be honest, my first impressions were no doubt soiled (unfairly perhaps) by high expectations of what I want a Wilco album to sound like. This is now second Wilco album that, while a sturdy and and generally “good” record, seemed to fall a bit flat for me. It could be argued that the band’s stellar live concerts — with the band’s virtuosic musicianship and instrumental prowess and high energy — has become the best way to experience the band. It could also be argued that what I want from Wilco, may not be what Wilco wants from Wilco anymore.

The Album finds the band for the most part still in a relaxed mode, playing good, unfussy songs well. But it’s a far cry from the deconstructionist rock I fell in love with.

“You And I” in particular, at least on first listens, jumped out by not jumping out at all. It’s certainly the most calculated and straight-ahead song on the record: not offensive or even particularly bad, but dull.

But then I caught a couple homemade videos on YouTube of Feist sitting in with Wilco on tour to perform the song. And again, this past week, they took the song on the Late Show, playing the song for David Letterman:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4NPMjmZ-5A&hl[/youtube]

Suddenly, I was noticing fragments of the song’s melodies rattling around in my head and began to wonder if there was more to this song than I had thought. I looked up the song’s chords online, worked up the song on guitar within an hour — still is a really simple and unfussy song structure — and found that I really loved the chord progression.

The best part of the song to me is the bridge (mistakenly labeled as the “chorus” in that chord sheet link), where the song has brief, and subtle key change:

F Fmaj7
Oh, I don’t wanna know
Em
Oh, I don’t wanna know
C Am9
Oh, I don’t need to know everything about you
F Fmaj7
Oh I don’t wanna know and
C Bb Am Dm G6 G7
You don’t need to know that much about me

That C > Bb > Am > Dm > G6 > G7 progression fits just perfectly and truly makes the song for me. My only wish is that they would play that section more than once. Oh well.

Over the last few days, I’ve decided that “You And I” may be one of the best “songs” on the records. Even if the rather glossy production and uninteresting instrumentation might paint the song as a bit tepid sonically, I think there is something to be said about the overall restraint in the melodies, the beauty of Feist and Tweedy’s vocals and the way the chords snugly fit together. Well done Tweedy, well done.