Franz Nicolay Leaves The Hold Steady; Scene Seems Noticeably Less Sunny

Mustachioed Hold Steady multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay has announced he’s left the band. Nicolay, who has served as the group’s keyboardist/accordionist/yelping handclapper since 2005’s Separation Sunday, wrote on his website Wednesday:

You should know: I’ve left The Hold Steady. I told the band I’d be leaving in early September, played my last show with them in Minneapolis around Thanksgiving, and dotted the t’s and crossed the i’s this week. Five years seemed like a nice round number. Thanks to everyone who was a part of the experience, especially the Unified Scene, who are nice folks. I’ll see you all soon in any case.

Many Hold Steady fans, myself included, have come to rely on Nicolay for his disjointed, “Piano Man”-drunk keyboards and regular ‘whoa oh-oh’s on staple songs like “Stay Positive” and “Chips Ahoy!” With his unique talents and stage presence, Nicolay will no doubt be difficult to replace. Though, as The Hold Steady moves forward as a post-Nicolay band, there will be one element glaringly missing: fashion.

Nicolay really raised the style bar for the band, with his aforementioned moustache, newsboy cap, and nicely pressed vest and slacks combo. Without him, The Hold Steady are just five grungy middle-aged dudes with stained pants, ironic t-shirts, and original pressings of Let It Be; not exactly rock stars. But I have faith that Craig Finn and co. can recover this loss by following a few simple tips:

1. Craig Finn needs to buy an ascot, and never be seen without it.
2. Lead guitarist Tad Kubler should bleach his hair, begin wearing muscle t-shirts, and refer to himself exclusively as “T.K.”
3. Hire Daniel Radcliffe as Nicolay’s replacement. The kid is hyper-fashionable, isn’t averse to doing shocking things on stage, and already loves the band.
4. Introduce a new character to the long-running Holly/Charlemagne/Gideon narrative based on Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass. ‘Chuck Crass’ is probably an appropriate name.

Franz Nicolay’s first short story collection, Complicated Garden Techniques, is out in February, and he is currently producing an LP for Brooklyn’s The Debutante Hour. Let’s hope he has many more massive nights down the road.

[Photo: Tad Kubler]

WHY?’s Josiah Wolf Preps Solo Debut, Potentially Reignites Sibling Rivalry

Yoni, Yoni, Yoni! That’s all anyone ever talks about! Yes, yes, being the sibling of avant-rap’s most neurotic straddler of genre lines must be tough. Actually, it’s probably not that tough. While Josiah Wolf doesn’t quite get the attention his brother Yoni does for WHY?, the man has had a pretty nice role as a multi-instrumentalist for the group over the past few years. Still, it may be about time for Josiah to get a bit of that sweet spotlight, so he’s releasing Jet Lag, his debut solo LP, through Anticon on March 2.

Afraid (or hoping?) that Josiah is simply the sunnier counterpart to Yoni’s depressed abstractionist? The following quote should assuage your fears:

Jet Lag came together following the dissolution of an 11-year relationship, and over the course of a move from California back to the Midwest, where Wolf grew up. It’s no surprise then, that the album contains such deeply moving works as the spooky, Cohen-esque “Is the Body Hung” and the warm, grand tribute to past love, “In The Seam.” But Jet Lag’s final two songs only look back long enough to prepare their author for newness. The stormy “Gravity Defied” conveys that knowing resignation that eventually comes, while on album-ender “The One Sign,” the breeze that Wolf was waiting on becomes a gale threatening to crash a loaded airplane.

If you’re preemptively looking for summer jams, something tells me you won’t find them here.

Jet Lag tracklist:

01. The Trailer and the Truck
02. Master Cleanse (California)
03. The Opposite of Breathing
04. The New Car
05. Skull in the Ice
06. The Apart Meant
07. That Kind of Man
08. Ohioho
09. Is the Body Hung
10. In the Seam
11. Gravity Defied
12. The One Sign

Conan O’Brien’s Last Show Friday, Neil Young Guests

This morning, NBC announced that Friday will indeed be Conan O’Brien’s last show before Jay Leno returns to host The Tonight Show on March 1. (Fuck NBC! Fuck Leno! Fuck three late-night shows on one station!) According to the Associated Press, O’Brien will walk away with $33 million, and his reportedly disgruntled staff of 200 will split the remaining $12 million of the $45 million settlement, which amounts to roughly $60,000 per person. O’Brien reportedly plans to supplement the staff’s severance out of his own pocket.

The terms, the details of which have yet to be formally announced, allow O’Brien to work for another network for the fall season, but he can’t “disparage” NBC for a specified amount of time. More significantly, “intellectual properties” like Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog and Masturbating Bear are no longer his. (I suggest he symbolically kills them both on Friday.)

But it’s not over yet for the Cone-Zone: The lineup for O’Brien’s last show this Friday has already been announced, and to echo nearly every reporter in the nation, “he’s pulling out the big guns.” In addition to the affable Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies, Ned on Family Ties) and the incorrigible Will Ferrell (Elf, Mugatu, made-for-TV movie Bucket of Blood), O’Brien has booked Neil Young as the final musical act, who performed a full week on O’Brien’s former Late Night show back in 2005.

I think Barry Manilow is performing tonight. Hm. Anyway, expect some expensive gags for O’Brien’s last two shows.

Hey, Remember The Lemonheads? Good, Because Frontman Evan Dando’s Going on Tour

Quick poll: remember The Lemonheads? If you don’t, go check out It’s a Shame About Ray, it’s a fun album. If you do, well, go pull out It’s a Shame About Ray and take a quick trip back to the early 90s. Then extend your trip by going to see your newly-reacquainted buddy Evan Dando when he takes a nice jaunt around the East Coast for about a month. Mr. Dando will be playing your old favorites from the Lemonheads back catalog, along with material from his solo album (TMT Review) and last year’s Lemonheads covers album, Varshons. Supporting Dando on tour will be The Candles, the solo project of Josh Lattanzi, who has served as a touring musician for The Lemonheads (hey!), Albert Hammond Jr., James Taylor, and Ben Kweller, among others.

Evan Dando tour (all dates with The Candles):

01.29.10 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell’s
01.30.10 - New York, NY - Joe’s Pub
01.31.10 - Bordentown, NJ - The Record Collector Store
02.03.10 - Allston, MA - Great Scott
02.04.10 - Northampton, MA - Iron Horse Music Hall
02.05.10 - Philadelphia, PA - M Room
02.06.10 - Arlington, VA - IOTA Club & Café
02.09.10 - Charlotte, NC - Tremont Music Hall
02.10.10 - Athens, GA - 40 Watt
02.11.10 - Gainesville, FL - Common Grounds
02.12.10 - Tampa, FL - Crowbar
02.13.10 - Orlando, FL - The Backbooth
02.16.10 - St. Louis, MO - Old Rock House
02.17.10 - Indianapolis, IN - Radio Radio
02.18.10 - Detroit, MI - Majestic Theatre
02.19.10 - Chicago, IL - Double Door
02.20.10 - Minneapolis, MN - 400 Bar
02.21.10 - Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room
02.23.10 - Dallas, TX - The Prophet Bar
02.24.10 - Austin, TX - Emo’s Alternative Lounging (Outdoor)
02.27.10 - Los Angeles, CA - Hotel Café
02.28.10 - San Francisco, CA - Café Du Nord
03.03.10 - Seattle, WA - Tractor Tavern
03.06.10 - New York, NY - Mercury Lounge

The Antlers Make Every Single “Best of 2009” List in the Universe, Announce Winter Tourdates

The Antlers must think they’re pretty special, with Hospice (TMT Review) having appeared on “Best of 2009” lists from such taste-making websites and publications as Pitchfork, NPR, The Onion A.V. Club, Paste, Filter, and Popmatters. Hell, even Teen Vogue said that they have “Brilliant lyricism and shimmering choruses.” Well, Antlers, there’s one list that you won’t make it to the top of. Yeah, you guessed right. This dude is a blogger and he’s pissed. Next time, try to look both ways before crossing the freeway, okay? You have a long tour ahead of you, and I’d hate to see this happen before you make it back to the East Coast.

01.29.10 - Notre Dame, IN - Legends of Notre Dame
01.30.10 - Akron, OH - Music
02.05.10 - Brooklyn, NY - Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera *
02.08.10 - San Francisco, CA - The Warfield #
02.09.10 - San Diego, CA - House of Blues #
02.11.10 - Los Angeles, CA - Wiltern Theatre #
02.13.10 - Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre #
02.15.10 - Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre #
02.16.10 - Toronto, ON - Phoenix Concert Theatre #
02.18.10 - Boston, MA - House of Blues Boston #
02.19.10 - New York, NY - Terminal 5 #
02.20.10 - Philadelphia, PA - Trocadero #
02.21.10 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club #

* Ra Ra Riot
# Editors

[Photo: Ben Ritter]

New Pornographers to Release Together on May 4

Matador Records have announced The New Pornographers’ latest release Together. The album is due May 4 and was “recorded in Vancouver, Brooklyn, Woodstock, and Catskill, NY.” It will feature all regular eight members plus guest appearances from St Vincent, Zach Condon (Beirut), and Will Sheff (Okkervil River). Three of the songs have been written by Dan Bejar, while the remaining nine were penned by A.C. Newman.

Their latest LP is the “supergroup’s” fifth full-length – but after that many albums, I guess you’re not really “super” anymore, since no one ever describes them like that now. They need to get Thom Yorke on board to resurrect their supergroup status. He seems bored at the moment.