Semisonic

“There’s a sense of hopefulness that threads its way through this record,” says Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson. “After all the turmoil and upheaval we’ve been through these past few years, I was trying to find some optimism for myself, and I think it just naturally worked its way into these songs.”

On Little Bit Of Sun, Semisonic’s first full-length album in more than 20 years, that hopeful spirit shines through. Recorded in the band’s native Minneapolis and featuring appearances from special guests including Jason Isbell and Jim James, the collection offers a deeply moving reflection on growth, gratitude, and commitment in the face of change and uncertainty. The songs walk a tightrope between raw energy and tender beauty, balancing power pop muscle with acoustic intimacy. Bassist John Munson and drummer Jacob Slichter’s performances are finely tuned to match, infusing Wilson’s bright, buoyant melodies with touches of melancholy and darkness that perpetually haunt the periphery. While it would be easy for a band like Semisonic to revel in nostalgia, Little Bit Of Sun instead looks to the past with appreciation rather than longing, pairing a profound thankfulness for the journey with an infectious excitement for all that’s still to come.

“My approach as an artist has always been to write from where I am now,” Wilson explains. “It’s been two decades since Semisonic made a full record together, so it was interesting to write from the perspective of returning to the band and finding it inspiring but very different. I couldn’t help but think about the early days, about the formative influences that shaped and inspired us, but a lot of the songs are about the present moment in my life.”

Launched following the dissolution of influential Twin Cities band Trip Shakespeare, Semisonic first emerged to widespread acclaim with their 1996 debut, Great Divide. While the album was a critical hit (Rolling Stone called it “a record of simple but sparkling modern pop, rattling with power-trio vitality”), the group’s commercial breakthrough didn’t arrive until the 1998 release of their sophomore album, Feeling Strangely Fine, which went platinum on the strength of its chart-topping lead single, “Closing Time.” Nominated for a GRAMMY, the track was a radio juggernaut that would go on to land in countless film and television soundtracks and come to define the sound of an entire decade of rock and roll. Years of gritting it out on the road eventually took its toll on the band, though, and after releasing one more album in 2001, the trio decided to part ways for an amicable but indefinite hiatus.

During the group’s time apart, Slichter became a celebrated writer and commentator, contributing to the New York Times and NPR in addition to earning high praise for his 2004 memoir, So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star. He would go on to join the faculty at Sarah Lawrence, where he currently teaches creative nonfiction. Munson continued to make his career in music, performing and recording regularly with a variety of bands including The Twilight Hours, The Fragrants, and The New Standards, whose annual holiday show has been a Minneapolis staple for nearly 20 years. A lifelong lover of radio, he became the Music Director for American Public Media's WITS and a frequent guest host of Minnesota Public Radio's The Current.

Wilson, meanwhile, moved to Los Angeles and established himself as one of the most prolific, diverse, and accomplished songwriters of the modern era, taking home an Album of the Year GRAMMY for Adele’s 21 (which featured three of his co-writes, including “Someone Like You”), earning a Song of the Year GRAMMY for “Not Ready To Make Nice” (one of six tracks he co-wrote on The Chicks’ Taking The Long Way), and collaborating with living legends like Carole King, Celine Dion, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band; pop stars like Taylor Swift, Pink, and Leon Bridges; country artists like Chris Stapleton and Dierks Bentley; and indie rockers like My Morning Jacket, Mitski, Phantogram, and Claud among countless others. At the same time, Wilson also established himself as a celebrated solo artist, releasing a series of albums, EPs, and singles under his own name that found him working in the studio with everyone from Rick Rubin and Sheryl Crow to Sara Bareilles and Nickel Creek’s Sean and Sara Watkins.

Though Semisonic would reunite sporadically through the years for one-offs and charity shows, Wilson wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to write for the band again until a creative breakthrough led him to You’re Not Alone. Released in 2020, the five-track EP brought the band back into the studio for the first time in two decades and earned glowing reviews from Rolling Stone, SPIN, Stereogum, and more.

“When I’m writing for another artist, I’m really paying attention to the sound of their voice and their delivery,” Wilson explains, “but in making You’re Not Alone, I realized that writing for Semisonic is actually all about writing for John and Jacob’s rhythm section. Even though I’m often the one singing, their playing is the voice of this band in a lot of ways, and that understanding opened up the floodgates for me.”

Reinvigorated by his revelation, Wilson penned several dozen new tracks, which the band captured live at Minneapolis’ Creation Audio before completing work on the album with additional session in Los Angeles, New York, and Minneapolis. More than past Semisonic records, Wilson focused his attention this time around on the acoustic guitar, taking his cues from Tom Petty as he chased a guitar-driven sound fueled by thick, straight ahead strumming and overdriven melodic leads.

“I felt the loss of Tom Petty maybe even more than the loss of Prince, if only because Petty’s musical and songwriting brilliance seemed a little more within reach of my own abilities,” Wilson recalls. “His passing made me feel like any of us could go at any time, and so I wanted to write about making the most of our time on Earth.”

That commitment to being present is easy to hear on Little Bit of Sun, which opens with the shimmering title track. “Come rescue me because I’m all alone / And I can’t fight this darkness on my own,” Wilson sings at the song’s outset, embarking on a search that ultimately uncovers enough optimism for him to proclaim, “Little bit of hope / Little bit of light / I only need a little bit to get by.” The ecstatic “Grow Your Own” flashes back to the joy and excitement of Wilson’s early days in Boston, where he discovered his passion for making music and the musicians that made it seem possible. The bittersweet “Don’t Fade Away” (one of three tracks featuring Jason Isbell on guitar) aims to make the most of each moment as it comes. The achingly triumphant “Beautiful Sky” (written with and featuring Jim James on guitar) commits to celebrating life as we live it, with the line “Let’s make this one last” repeated over and over like a mantra.

“It wouldn’t be a Semisonic album without some purely romantic love songs,” Wilson says. “That’s what we’ve always done, no matter how loud the music got.”

The blissful “So Amazed” shares the contentment of simply existing alongside a soul mate, while the mesmerizing “Only Empathy” (one of two tracks written with Lori McKenna) offers a patient and supportive ear, and the dreamy “All The Time” promises complete and utter devotion.

Even at its most raucous, Little Bit Of Sun wears its heart on its sleeve, embracing the intensity of its emotions not as a flaw, but rather as an integral element of the human experience. “The Rope” (one of the three tracks written with Amy Allen) explodes out of the speakers in a two-and-a-half-minute frenzy; the driving “Keep Me In Motion” (written primarily by Slichter) steps on the gas and never looks back; the playfully sardonic “It Wasn’t Like We Hoped It Would Be” pokes fun at our impulse to never be satisfied; and the Munson-penned and sung “If You Say So” looks back on 20-something aimlessness with a sly incredulity.

“We’ve always been an earnest band, and I’m happy we never tried to ‘fix’ that about ourselves,” Wilson muses. “There’s something particular to our music that’s just really pure, that has this light that glows from within.”

On Little Bit Of Sun, that light glows brighter than ever.

Past Shows


Apr
6
th
2024
Palace Theatre
Apr
6
th
2024
Palace Theatre

Semisonic

★ Local Show ★
with LAAMAR
Jan
28
th
2023
First Avenue
Jan
28
th
2023
First Avenue

Semisonic

The Current’s 18th Anniversary Weekend
with Chastity Brown
Jan
27
th
2023
First Avenue
Jan
27
th
2023
First Avenue

Semisonic

The Current’s 18th Anniversary Weekend
with Chastity Brown
Jan
25
th
2023
icehouse MPLS
Jan
25
th
2023
icehouse MPLS
Sep
10
th
2021
First Avenue
Sep
10
th
2021
First Avenue
Cancelled

Semisonic

with Thomas Abban
Sep
9
th
2021
First Avenue
Sep
9
th
2021
First Avenue
Cancelled

Semisonic

with Thomas Abban
Dec
16
th
2017
Mainroom
Dec
16
th
2017
Mainroom

Semisonic

with JOHNNY & MOLLY (Communist Daughter)
Dec
15
th
2017
Mainroom
Dec
15
th
2017
Mainroom

Semisonic

with JOHNNY & MOLLY (Communist Daughter)
Dec
13
th
2017
Turf Club
Dec
13
th
2017
Turf Club
Jun
17
th
2017
Mainroom
Jun
17
th
2017
Mainroom
Jun
16
th
2017
Mainroom
Jun
16
th
2017
Mainroom
Jun
14
th
2017
Turf Club
Jun
14
th
2017
Turf Club
Jan
7
th
2017
Mainroom
Jan
7
th
2017
Mainroom
Jan
5
th
2017
Turf Club
Jan
5
th
2017
Turf Club
Oct
8
th
2010
Mainroom
Oct
8
th
2010
Mainroom

A BENEFIT FOR BRAD KERN

with Semisonic, Mason Jennings, jeremy messersmith and more!

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7th St Entry

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Chapel Hart

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