Peer into the Ears of Dan Wilson and Al Franken

No wax here—we just asked 'em, "What did you listen to in 2007?"

Dan Wilson

Dixie Chicks Grammy-winning-song collaborator Dan Wilson released his first solo album this year, the Rick Rubin-produced Free Life. The Semisonic songwriter and former Trip Shakespearean still lives in Minneapolis, still shops at the Electric Fetus, and plans on holing up and writing songs for the next few months. He recently finished producing Mike Doughty's Golden Delicious, due in February 2008.

Replacements, "Skyway"

Steve Cohen
Bill Weaver

I got so excited about Walsh's book [Replacements oral history All Over But the Shouting] that I got digital versions of songs I already had on vinyl. I tried to listen to others, but I just got stuck on "Skyway." It's so short and so perfect, it makes you want to listen to it again and again. I wonder if people who don't have skyways even understand what it's about.

Sufjan Stevens, "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois"

One of the guys from Absent Star came up to me with his iPod and commanded that I listen to it. It's important to musicians—they'll be like, "You have to listen to this," and I'll obey. I have the whole album [Illinois], but I just listen to this—it's a really mysterious song.

Mitsuko Uchida, Mozart Sonata in C, KV 545

I first heard this as a child, at a piano recital. This very brilliant boy played it, and I was transfixed. Jacob from Semisonic gave it to me when I was recovering from surgery, and I listened to it for a month. It was a source of peace and comfort—the Percocet was also very helpful.

Radiohead, In Rainbows

I tried to pay for it 12 times, and got hung up on by their server—it kept kicking me off. I gave up, and then someone gave it to me. I'm going to buy the geek version anyway. I'm a fool for them.

Dixie Chicks, Wide Open Spaces

My daughter Coco is an obsessive Chicks fan. She made me listen to it 100 times this summer. I mentioned it to Emily [Robison], and she said, "I hope it hasn't ruined the music the way my son has ruined 'We Will Rock You' for me."

Matt Sweeney and Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Superwolf

Rick Rubin made me listen to this over the phone. He said, "Check it out!" and held his phone up to the speaker. This is the album I wore out. It's very tender and really rocking at the same time—full of amazingly surprising moments, really proportionate and beautiful, but also kind of "off."

Keith Jarrett, The Carnegie Hall Concert

I got hyped on that from reading reviews. Jarrett's got this crazy ability to have each hand do completely different things, both very wildly—and then it snaps into place as this gospel, vampy, swinging thing. He's just so audacious.

Mike Doughty, Golden Delicious

Technically speaking, I listened to this album more than any other on the list, but now I'm listening to it just for enjoyment. Usually it takes me a couple years to have the distance, but for some reason I've been able to really enjoy this album. John Kirby played a lot of loose, free, very spontaneous melodies—a lot of it was really unscripted.

Ray LaMontagne, 'Till the Sun Turns Black

I really liked Trouble a lot. When I got this one, I listened to it a bunch of times and I thought, "Oh, okay: This is his masterpiece; he's a genius," and then it turns out it was received as a turning-inward.

Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde

This album had always seemed sort of jumpy to me, but this year, not at all. Now it seems very spontaneous, and what I used to think of as "jumpy" is people listening to each other having fun and following Dylan's crazy lead. Some of it is just so funny—"Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat" makes me laugh every time.

Al Franken

Former Saturday Night Live cast member, screenwriter, and New York Times best-selling author, St. Louis Park native Al Franken is currently living in Minneapolis and campaigning for a seat in the United States Senate.

First of all, I have to make a confession. My favorite music of 2007 bears a striking resemblance to my favorite music of 1975. Also to my favorite music of 1976, 1977, 1978, etc., etc.

See, I'm a Deadhead. As anyone who listened to my radio show knows, I used the Grateful Dead as my bumper music going in and out of breaks. And there's a real community of Deadheads out there. At an event the other day, a guy handed me a new remix of "Cornell '78."

That said, I do allow a few new influences into my musical consciousness every once in a while. So, here's my list of five non-Grateful Dead things I've been listening to in 2007:


That's the format used by KLCI 106.1 FM, and it's a mix of contemporary and older country that is apparently mimicked by many "Bob" or Bob-like stations across the country. I love country music because I like the unabashed melodrama.

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