St. Vincent vs. Wilco: Live Last Night, On TV
I actually found myself at home at 12:30 last night and was faced with a late-night-TV musical guest dilemma -- Wilco on Conan or St. Vincent on Dave? In a true changing-of-the-guard moment, I watched Annie Clark live and DVR'd Jeff Tweedy. It was the right choice. An act on the rise and another happy to stay exactly where it is.
These late-nigh TV spots offer bands a chance to indulge in bigger arrangements and St. Vincent took full advantage of that, getting the Budos Band to add some horns and funk up the shifty, sultry "Marrow," one of the many standouts from this year's "Actor." It was Annie Clark's network debut and you get the sense she was a bit nervous; but you can also tell why she's all the rage these days -- tons of ideas, all nicely bouncing off each other and coming together in an easily digestible pop song. [Editor's note: She's also a looker.] Add in the tasteful, fuzzy attack on her electric guitar and it's really a winner. In the off chance that she has a full complement of horns with her at FreeFest, her set will shoot to No. 1 on the Can't Miss List.
I don't know how it took me so long to put my finger on it, but I figured out exactly what's "wrong" with Wilco: There's a complete lack of tension in the band's music these days. Jeff Tweedy is still a very good songwriter, everyone is locked in and they look fabulous in those leftover outfits from "Three Amigos." But Wilco is now one-dimensional. They play laid-back country-pop songs. There's a complacency that permeates the recent output. "Summerteeth" is my favorite Wilco record because there's this great dichotomy between the painstaking pop majesty of the music and Tweedy's disturbing lyrics. There's a foreboding feeling throughout "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." Now it's a lot more straightforward. You can listen to the songs once and get everything you need to get from them.
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