After spending the past year and a half smoothing out his personal life -- he closed his restaurant, regained his sobriety and got engaged -- Johnny Solomon finally seems poised to jump into the deep end with Communist Daughter.

His band's headlining set Friday on the big stage at Amsterdam Bar & Hall isn't just the kickoff for the new St. Paul venue's grand-opening weekend, nor is it just a release party for a new EP, "Something Wicked This Way Comes." It also marks the beginning of an ambitious fall schedule that includes dates opening for Deer Tick, a trek to the CMJ fest and a national re-release of 2009's debut album, "Soundtrack to the End." The group is also in record-contract talks with "some majors and major indies," Solomon revealed.

"Soundtrack" earned loads of local accolades and airplay -- especially for the forever-hummable single "Not the Kid" -- but never got a fair shake out of town. The new edition was remastered and remixed with Brad Kern, Semisonic's sound guy. New drummer Ian Prince also re-recorded drums on several tracks because Solomon lost some of the original tapes.

"I wasn't in the clearest state of mind," Solomon admitted. He said he spent a mere $3,000 on them and was embarrassed he didn't craft the record more carefully. "I'll always think of the original as the album that I put out in my basement, but a lot of people wanted to hear it cleaned up so they could use it [on the radio]."

Fans who like "Soundtrack" just fine can pick up the new EP instead. The six-song collection features three newbies, including the Johnny-bares-all acoustic track "Don't Remember Me," plus a stormy opener called "Ghosts" that spotlights co-vocalist Molly Moore (Solomon's fiancée). The other three tracks are covers, including "Golden Slumbers" from last year's "Minnesota Beatle Project," plus fun remakes courtesy of the Hold Steady ("Knuckles") and Mountain Goats ("No Children").


Oh, great: another local band with a buzz that thinks it could be the next Radiohead. That might sound like a negative assessment of Peter Wolf Crier's sophomore album, "Garden of Arms," but it's more a warning that the young guitar/drums duo doesn't repeat itself much on the followup to its Jagjaguwar-reissued debut, "Inter-Be."

With frontman Peter Pisano's tape-loop machinery and darkly tuned guitars going full tilt and drummer Brian Moen playing just about every time signature except 4/4, the new record's "Kid A" qualities are unmistakable, but there are some grade-A songs and powerful moments lurking behind the haunting dissonance. The frazzled rocker "Hard Heart" hits like a brick, while the record's sunniest track, "Having It Out," would be elegant even without the sonic layering.

PWC's release party is Friday at the Cedar Cultural Center with Mystery Palace (8 p.m., $12-$15, all ages).


After two international acts canceled shows due to visa problems, including London-based Somali singer Aar Maanta, the Cedar's director Rob Simonds wrote a blog post lambasting U.S. embassies' handling of such matters. Four of the five members of Aar Maanta's band were approved, except the one Muslim from Somalia, said Simonds, who stressed the value these shows have "to provide positive role models, particularly young males who embody tolerance and the successful integration of Somali immigrants" (i.e., Aar Maanta). Read the rest at ... Also go to the Cedar site for details on Sunday's two screenings of the new Swell Season documentary (7 and 9 p.m., $10). ...

After touring with Mark Knopfler last year, almost-local Iowa tunesmith Pieta Brown nabbed the Dire Straits leader to play guitar for one track on her latest album, "Mercury," which arrives Tuesday via Red House Records. Brown recorded the disc in Tennessee with her guitarist/co-conspirator Bo Ramsey, and it not surprisingly has a rich, neo-twang vibe along with some of her best songwriting to date. She and Ramsey return Thursday to the Dakota for a release party with Charlie Parr (7 p.m., $15). ...

St. Paul's Afghani restaurant Khyber Pass is in danger of closing, and its musician customers aren't standing for it. Pay-what-you-can benefit gigs are happening this weekend with percussionist Davu Seru, starting with a Dean Magraw duo set Friday, the George Cartwright collaboration Merciless Ghost on Saturday and Charcoal with Milo Fine and Anthony Cox on Sunday (all 9-11 p.m.). The Dave King Trucking Co. and Andrew Broder also perform there Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, respectively.