Musicheads Essential Artist: Semisonic

Semisonic performing at First Avenue
Semisonic onstage at First Avenue in 2017. (Andy Witchger for MPR)
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Musicheads Essential Artist: Semisonic
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April is Minnesota Music Month. To celebrate, each weekday this month we'll be spotlighting a different artist with special coverage on air and online. For Monday, April 20, we're shining a light on Semisonic.

Semisonic, a Minneapolis power-pop trio, skyrocketed to the top of the charts with their megahit "Closing Time" in the late '90s.

Long before Semisonic were officially formed, frontman Dan Wilson performed with bassist John Munson in Trip Shakespeare, a group that was led by Dan's brother, Matt. Trip Shakespeare were locally beloved and had a brief brush with national visibility when they signed to A&M Records in the early '90s before breaking up in 1992.

In 1995, Dan and John joined forces with the drummer Jake Slichter to form Pleasure, which they would rename Semisonic.

By the time the new trio had refined their sound, the pendulum of popular music had swung from the grunge of the early '90 toward a more hopeful sound; Semisonic's songwriter-driven, heart-forward style of alternative rock clearly resonated. When they released their breakthrough album, Feeling Strangely Fine, in 1998, their single "Closing Time" crossed over from alternative radio to Top 40, and became omnipresent.

In 1999 "Closing Time" was awarded with a Grammy for Best Rock Song, while the other singles from Feeling Strangely Fine, "Singing in My Sleep" and "Secret Smile," became fan favorites and hits across the pond in the U.K.

An inspiring co-songwriting session between Dan Wilson and Carole King resulted in a song for Semisonic's next studio album, All About Chemistry, and jumpstarted a new era of Dan Wilson's career. He's since gone on to co-write hits with major artists like Adele, Taylor Swift, and the Dixie Chicks, while John Munson continues to collaborate with his old Trip Shakespeare bandmate Matt Wilson in the Twilight Hours, and teamed up with another local legend, Chan Poling of the Suburbs, to form the New Standards.

In the years since their commercial peak, Semisonic continue to perform together at occasional high-energy reunion shows and have even recorded together again, debuting new music on The Current in 2019.


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