Wilco (The Album)
out June 30th
It’s easy to give an album a 75/100. It is. People that love the album are okay with it, because your glass is ¾ full. People that hated the record are okay with it because you haven’t been overtly generous. People get worked up over extremes, and 75 is neither altogether here nor there. It requires little commitment from the author. You give an album a 90, or (conversely) a 20 you’re committed to your decision. You loved it or hated it, and you’re on the hook for that. Still, when I listen to Wilco (The Album) it just feels like a 75. The record is very good, but in aggregate never achieves the greatness of Jeff Tweedy & the boys’ previous work. There are moments (though few and far between) throughout the album where you get anxious for something new, and for that it gets a wishy-wash 75.
The album begins with “Wilco (The Song)” which just feels like Wilco. It opens with a listener friendly hook that runs the course of the song. However, just when you, as a listener, hit the flow, the band jars you with an odd beat, “Wilco, Wilco.” Wilco has never been a band that lets the audience feel altogether at ease, and this is a perfect way to let us know that we’re here on their terms.
The beauty of this album is in the subtleties of the music. Songs like “Solitaire” and “One Wing” showcase these subtle aspects with soft guitar riffs, silky vocals, and drifting organs. Those moments thread their way throughout the album and help the listener enjoy the measures they are in. On “One Wing” (a song revolving about lost love tragedy), the lyrics are great (“One wing, will never ever fly, dear”), but the musicianship is non-secondarily stellar. The song walks the line between ballad and rock so well, that by the 3.16 mark (when the guitars start shredding) you’ve pretty well forgotten where you started and are totally immersed in the music.
“Bull Black Nova” (probably the most experimental song on the album) begins with repetitive piano chords that could easily reside on any of the Wilco catalogue. The ensuing song revolves around those chords, culminating in an instrument explosion. It’s experimental, but it’s definitely painted in shades of Wilco. I don’t particularly like it, and it’s songs like “Bull Black Nova” that turn casual fans away from the band. The rambling chord repetition gets stale and the song meanders about far too long for its own good. The technical jam session at the end is just too complex for the listener, verging on overwhelming. While it’s certainly not uncommon for musicians to wanna play complex music, Wilco overdoes it at times. This is a band full of true musicians, and I honestly think they lose their audience (often just for the moment) by insisting on technical rather than “catchy.” I think it’s a trade off Wilco is willing to make, but it doesn’t always entice a listener to come back for more.
In Wilco’s first duet, Feist makes a guest appearance on “You and I.” It’s a simple, acoustic driven ballad that discusses the inability to connect with someone you love. Tweedy and Feist have a uniform simplicity and rawness that really click. Neither overpowers or underwhelms the other, and it leaves me wanting a (never-gonna-happen) full-length album of Wilco/Feist collaborations.
On Wilco (The Album) nothing (but maybe “Bull Black Nova”) really overpowers, and Wilco lets everything seep out in its time. The album blends well and leaves the listener relaxed and feeling like they had an experience with the music. The album, overall, will draw more similarities to Sky Blue Sky, than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but it includes enough moments of beauty to be viewed as a necessary progression in Wilco tapestry. It’s a very good album that I’ll listen to again and again… a solid 75.
To enter to win a copy of Wilco’ Wilco (The Album), leave a comment with your thoughts on the tracks you’ve just sampled, or (if you’ve listened to it) the album. Make sure you leave your name/email address in the provided fields! Entries will be accepted until June 28th