Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt Documentary Coming This Spring, Brooding Pop Enthusiasts Rejoice

Maybe we were a little too quick to crown Morrissey as the Master of Melancholy, cause I’ll be damned if Stephin Merritt doesn’t come in as a VERY close second. The Magnetic Fields are just one of many mopey, dark projects Merritt has been involved with (including the 6ths, the Future Bible Heroes, and the Gothic Archies, to name a few others). But Merritt’s role as the arranger, songwriter, and producer in the Magnetic Fields may represent the best of his talent as a pop musician and overall Sad Sack. Merritt has long been known to expertly punch out moody, confused and jubilant pop song after pop song, but few journalists and/or filmmakers have ever gained access to Merritt’s personal life (though god knows they’d like to).

Well, all that’s about to change. This spring, directors Kerthy Fix and Gail O’Hara plan to release a documentary that chronicles the last 10 years of Merritt’s career and personal life. The film will reportedly gloss over Merritt’s beginnings as a naive copy editor for Spin Magazine and go on to cover his growth as a musician and as a prolific writer for Time Out New York. The film, due sometime in the next few months, will be screened as a part of San Francisco’s SF360 Film+Club series, and will then go on to make the necessary festival rounds. You’ll have to sit tight for the doc’s title though, because that’s not ready yet.

If you’re too ants in the pants to wait for the film’s release, you may satiate yourself in the meantime by checking out the new Magnetic Fields’ release Realism, out on Nonsuch next Tuesday (January 26). That’s in four days!!! And if you can’t wait till THEN, well I feel rather sorry for you—but no really, you can check out all of Realism streaming on the Fields’ MySpace page. Check out a video for “We Are Having a Hootenanny” over at the Chocolate Grinder.

• Magnetic Fields: http://www.houseoftomorrow.com
• Nonesuch: http://www.nonesuch.com

Dr. Dog to Release New LP on ANTI- This April, Tour for Ten Weeks

Shame, Shame is the name of the new album coming out on ANTI- Records this spring; April 6 to be exact. Dr. Dog is often touted as sounding “generic” or like (insert pop band name here) by the people who hate fun. It’s a ‘Shame, Shame’ that these guys don’t get more love from the “cool” critics, but in any case their fans don’t seem to be paying any mind. They’ve built their reputation playing shows, and for those of you hungry for more of that, their latest tourdates are posted below.

Rob Schnapf will be producing Shame, Shame in a professional studio, even — a first for the band who are used to recording in basements and home studios. ANTI- is claiming the album has a “darker tone” and also says it’s “an album whose themes of doubt, confusion and unanswered questions are soothed by bright harmonies, taut guitar riffs and soaring melodies.” All the change (and progression?) should be welcomed by the fans, and is a necessary change if they ever want be lauded by the hipper critics. We’ll see, won’t we?

P.S. Dr. Dog will be releasing the first track digitally when they reach 20,000 fans on Facebook, so if you’re into that kind of thing, click here.

Tourdates are as follows…

01.27.10 - Troy, NY - Revolution Hall *
01.28.10 - Burlington, VT - Higher Ground *
01.29.10 - Providence, RI - Lupo’s *
01.30.10 - Syracuse, NY- Westcott Theatre *
02.01.10 - Buffalo, NY - Mohawk Place *
02.03.10 - Pontiac, MI - The Pike Room *
02.04.10 - Milwaukee, WI - Turner Hall *
02.05.10 - Madison, WI - High Noon Saloon *
02.06.10 - Iowa City, IA - The Mill *
02.08.10 - Omaha, NE - Waiting Room *
02.09.10 - Rock Island, IL - Rock Island Brewing Co. *
02.10.10 - Cleveland, OH - Case Western University *
02.11.10 - Bloomington, IN - Video Saloon
02.12.10 - Columbus, OH - Newport Music Hall *
02.13.10 - State College, PA - State Theatre *
04.14.10 - Toronto, ON - Lee’s Place
04.15.10 - Ann Arbor, MI - Blind Pig
04.16.10 - Chicago, IL - Metro
04.17.10 - Minneapolis, MN - Fine Line
04.19.10 - Aspen, CO - Belly Up
04.20.10 - Denver, CO - Gothic Theatre
04.22.10 - Boise, ID - Neuroluz
04.23.10 - Portland, OR - Wonder Ballroom
04.24.10 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall
04.25.10 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall ^
04.27.10 - Los Angeles, CA - Henry Fonda ^
04.29.10 - Santa Fe, NM - Santa Fe Brewing Company ^
04.30.10 - Dallas, TX - The Loft ^
05.01.10 - Austin, TX - Emo’s Outside ^
05.02.10 - Houston, TX - Warehouse Live Studio ^
05.03.10 - Fayetteville, AR - Majestic ^
05.05.10 - Birmingham, AL - Workplay ^
05.06.10 - Nashville, TN - Cannery Ballroom ^
05.07.10 - Louisville, KY - Headliners ^
05.11.10 - Boston, MA - Paradise ^
05.12.10 - Boston, MA - Paradise ^
05.13.10 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory ^
05.14.10 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club ^
05.15.10 - New York, NY - Terminal 5 ^

* The Growlers
^ Deer Tick

International tourdates:

05.23.10 - Berlin, Germany - Magnet
05.24.10 - Koln, Germany - Blue Shell
05.25.10 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - Paradiso
05.26.10 - London, UK - Tabernacle
05.27.10 - Paris, France - Nouveau Casino
05.29.10 - Barcelona, Spain - Primavera Sound

Radiohead to Play Haiti Benefit Show in LA This Sunday

Stop counting your cash, rich Radiohead fans, and listen up. This Sunday, the group is playing a last-minute benefit show at The Music Box Theatre in LA, with the tickets being auctioned to raise money for Haiti. According to a post by drummer Phil Selway on Radiohead’s Dead Air Space blog:

We’re doing a show this Sunday (24th January) to raise funds for the relief effort in Haiti. The venue is The Music Box Theatre at The Fonda in Los Angeles, doors at 7pm. All proceeds are going to the Oxfam Haiti relief fund. We’re trying to raise as much money as possible, so tickets will be sold by auction at this site from 8pm tonight until 11am Saturday (PST):

http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/09004434FC1C86AC

We’re in the middle of recording at the moment, so you’ll be catching us on the fly…. but if you’re up for it, then we are too.

The auction starts today (January 21) at 8:00 PM PST and ends Saturday (January 23) at 11:00 AM PST. If you don’t live near the venue, don’t worry: you can donate to Oxfam’s Haiti relief fund page here.

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.

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