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:

Bob

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.

Trampled by Turtles

Speaking of country, I'm a big bluegrass fan. I got turned on to this band by Tom Saxhaug, the state senator from Grand Rapids. I thought it was a little suspicious that he spent most of our first meeting telling me how great their new album was. And wouldn't you know it, his son turns out to be the bass player. But the album really is great. This New Year's Eve, Franni and I will be at the TBT show at the Orpheum.

Fountains of Wayne

Specifically, their song "Better Things," which is a cover of a Kinks tune. I think it's going to be our campaign song because of its message, which is that better things are up ahead.

The Grateful Volunteers

Okay, this is kind of a cheat. The Grateful Volunteers are a Dead cover band composed of some great DFLers who are kind enough to play at some of our events. And even kinder-enough to let me sing once in a while. Specifically, "Brokedown Palace."

Call Time: The Musical

This warrants some explanation. As you know, running for Senate requires that I raise a great deal of money, especially since Norm Coleman has the deep-pocketed special interests on his side. So I spend hours and hours a week calling people to ask for support. To keep myself from going crazy, I've been entertaining myself and Kris Dahl, my "call time manager," by composing and singing hundreds—no, thousands—of songs for a musical based on call time titled Call Time: The Musical. Some songs are only 15 seconds long, such as "I Left a Message and I Hope They Call Me Back." Or, "I Don't Think That Was His Office Number (I Think That's His Home)." Most of the songs have original music, but some simply use existing tunes, such as "Pick Up the Phone, Arlen Lundahl," to the tune of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" from Evita. I should probably have just put "Springsteen" for this, huh? (I really like his new album.)

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