The Whigs Stay In The Van, Work On New Album

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After their best year ever—extensive tours with Kings Of Leon and the Kooks, sharing the stage with Band Of Horses on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta, bookings on all the relevant late-night talk shows (i.e., not Leno), the number-five album on MAGNET’s best-of-2008 listthe Whigs are finally ready to settle back down in Athens, Ga., to begin work on a follow-up to 2008’s Mission Control. After they play Madison Square Garden, that is. Not a bad way to start off the new year. No details yet on the upcoming album, but there’s a good chance the trio will be debuting some of its new material on the road. Tour dates after the jump. To read the feature we did on the Whigs last May, click here.

“Right Hand On My Heart” from Mission Control:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/RightHandOnMyHeart.mp3

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15 In Philly: Philly Boy Roy

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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Wassup, everybody? How youse doin’? When the guys from MAGNET asked me to recount my favorite Philly rock memories, my first thought was, “What’s MAGNET?” But then I thought, “Oh, it don’t matter, Channel 29 ain’t showin’ Rocky IV for another 45 minutes.”

The Beatles, Sept. 2, 1964
Ain’t got no actual verification, but my ma says yours truly got conceived on this night. Coulda been before, during or after the show. She don’t really remember.

The Hooters’ “South Ferry Road” from 1985’s Nervous Night:

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J Mascis Tours With Witch, Records With Dinosaur Jr

dinojrbridgecolor3Witch, the metal band featuring Dinosaur Jr frontman J Mascis on drums, will hit the road in February. The group, which also includes members of the freaky folky Feathers, released its sophomore LP, Paralyzed, last March. You can download it for free here. Dinosaur Jr is currently working with producer John Agnello (Hold Steady, Sonic Youth) on its follow-up to 2007 comeback LP Beyond. To read our career retrospective on Mascis and Co., click here. Witch tour dates after the jump.

Dinosaur Jr’s “Almost Ready” from Beyond:

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R.E.M. Has All The Right Friends And One Of The Wrong Ones

rem_press500R.E.M. fans with a charitable streak and plenty of disposable income may want to circle March 11 on their calendars. That’s the date of The Music Of R.E.M. tribute concert at NYC’s Carnegie Hall, with all of the net proceeds benefiting musical education programs for underprivileged youth. The list of confirmed artists so far is stellar: Bob Mould, the reunited Feelies, the dB’s, Marshall Crenshaw, Rhett Miller, the Apples In Stereo, Patti Smith, Glen Hansard (Frames, Swell Season) and others, with Calexico serving as the house band. (Darius Rucker of Hootie And The Blowfish, now a country singer, is also playing, providing the necessary beer/piss break.) Tickets range from $38-$125 for the great unwashed, but those not hit hard by the economic downturn can pay $275 for the VIP treatment. This includes the best seats in the house plus entrance to the private artist reception at City Winery featuring cuisine by celebrity chef Mario Batali. The Music Of R.E.M. is the sixth concert in a series of tribute/benefit shows presented by Michael Dorf at either Carnegie Hall or Avery Fisher Hall, with previous editions featuring the music of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and, um, Neil Sedaka.

Pavement’s 1994 cover of R.E.M.’s “Camera”:

15 In Philly: Man Man

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene:

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Man Man isn’t a typical pop group. It’s a pop group like a Salvation Army Preservation Society Jazz Band or a bunch of guys sitting on the stoop flailing on upturned plastic buckets and banjos made from cookie tins. Man Man draws from the grab-bag history of American music to fashion songs that sound both brand new and hundreds of years old.

“Top Drawer” from Rabbit Habits:

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Weakerthans, Constantines To Embark On Rolling Tundra Revue

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The Weakerthans (pictured) and the Constantines will co-headline a cross-Canadian winter tour beginning in March. (Trust us, it’s still winter in Canada in March.) The two groups first teamed up for their so-called Rolling Tundra Revue in 2005; this second version is lengthier, with the bands playing 30 dates in 21 cities. The Weakerthans’ most recent release is 2007’s Reunion Tour (Anti-), while the Constantines issued Kensington Heights (Arts & Crafts) last year.

MAGNET briefly chatted with Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson about the upcoming tour, the Guess Who and the great sport of curling. The Q&A and tour dates after the jump.

The Weakerthans’ “Tournament Of Hearts” from Reunion Tour:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/TournamentOfHearts.mp3 

The Constantines’ “Draw Us Lines” from 2005’s Tournament Of Hearts:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/DrawUsLines.mp3  

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Wrens Watch, Jan. 12, 2009

wrenswatch922We’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as Charles Sherwood Stratton.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, last Friday marked a huge milestone for the guys—guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald—who released “Pulled Fences,” their first new song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Granted, it was a track they recorded last year for a radio broadcast, but with these dudes, we’ll take what we can get. We checked in with Bissell to discuss “Pulled Fences.”

:: Wrens Watch, Jan. 12, 2009
MAGNET: We hadn’t had to do a Wrens Watch Special Report since 1997, when Jerry was caught in the Mercury Lounge bathroom with those two underage NYU lacrosse players.
Bissell: On the advice of our attorney (Greg Whelan), we still have no comment about that. Besides, Jerry was cleared of any wrongdoing.
His wife and kids must be so proud. Anyway, congrats on “Pulled Fences,” the first new Wrens song in five years. On initial listen, I thought it was great. So Kevin sang and wrote it?
Yes. And thanks. It was a lot of work finally getting it out. I mean, I have a kid now, and my wife just went back to work. A lot of late nights.
So you keep saying. Listening to “Pulled Fences” a second time, I realize it’s almost like Kevin brought in some half-finished demo for the rest of the band to try and play along to. That’s not actually the case, is it?
The main thing with the song is that we made it up on the spot, more or less: parts, approach, arrangement. A song of Kev’s but only he knew it or ever heard it. He copied the chords down, and the recording is that first time any of us are hearing it, too.
So we waited five years for a new Wrens song and you guys just decided to wing it? Jesus, I spent almost a dollar on it. I mean, Bob Pollard sends MAGNET cassettes full of songs more thought out than that. And for free.
We’d vowed years ago that if we ever played on The Tonight Show, we would make up a song on the spot. As that hasn’t happened yet, we thought a live radio/internet broadcast from Abbey Road with multi-track recording would be pressure enough.
The Tonight Show? You’ve got to be kidding me. Maybe when you get off your asses and finally start recording your new album, you can invite Jimmy Kimmel over and pretend to jam with Pete Best. If it’s not too much pressure.
Have you heard the “Pulled Fences” hidden bonus track? It sounds like this. [Hangs up]

15 In Philly: Like A Fox

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.

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Jay Laughlin is holding up the bar somewhere in Philadelphia tonight. He doesn’t have to be drinking in order to support the psychedelic-pop end of the city’s indie-rock scene, though beers are encouraged. Memories of the singer/guitarist’s former band, Lenola, are etched in smoke on the walls of the Khyber, epicenter of the late-’90s Psychedelphia scene. Laughlin’s current band, Like A Fox, is heard on stages and jukeboxes from Northern Liberties to South Philly. The affable Laughlin—tall, tattooed and invariably peeking out from under a baseball cap—holds near-mayoral status in the town known as Hostile City.

“Night Person” from Where’s My Golden Arm?:

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SXSW Confirms More Bands, Some Of Them Good

p_brien_c1South By Southwest, scheduled this year for March 18-22, added to its initial list of bands confirmed to play the annual Austin festival. The highlights of the new additions are (alphabetically): Akron/FamilyDave Alvin, the Bar-KaysAmanda BlankExplosions In The SkyBen KwellerPeter Bjorn & JohnPort O’Brien (pictured), St. Vincent and the Sonics. This year’s keynote speaker will be Quincy Jones. (Yawn.) Speaking of music in Austin, Okkervil River was great doing “Pop Lie” on Letterman last week; check out Will Sheff and Co.’s performance here. List of all confirmed SXSW bands after the jump.

Port O’Brien’s “I Woke Up Today” from 2008’s All We Could Do Was Sing:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/IWokeUpToday.mp3

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Neutral Milk Hotel To Reunite For Merge Anniversary Party … We Hope

neutralmhMerge Records, the little indie that could, and did, will celebrate its 20th anniversary July 22-26 with XX Merge, five days of live music from bands spanning the label’s history. No location or venue(s) have been announced. A source close to Merge wouldn’t confirm what artists would be playing the festival, though we won’t give anything more than even-money odds against a Superchunk and/or Portastatic appearance. Looking at Merge’s roster of current and past acts, we’d love to see the following on the bill: the 3Ds, the Bats, the Broken West, the Magnetic Fields (jamming with Superchunk on “100,000 Fireflies,” perhaps), the Buzzcocks, Spoon, Robert Pollard, the Clean, Crooked Fingers, Versus, East River Pipe and, of course, Neutral Milk Hotel (pictured). We were going to be snarky and list bands we wouldn’t want to play, but really, the taste of co-founders Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance has been pretty solid. If Pipe, Erectus Monotone or Richard Buckner show up, maybe we’ll complain—just not vigorously.

Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Ghost” from 1998’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea: