Due Out: June 30th
I feel like everybody's heard this album by now. Between the fairly early leak, and the subsequent streaming of Wilco (The Album) in full online, I'd say most fans of Wilco (The Band) have listened to it at least once through. Still, I'd say this one's worth speaking about, if only for the fact that very few lengthy and organized opinions have been amassed on the band's seventh studio effort as of yet (or at least I haven't seen many). Plus, I mean, it's the band's seventh album. That's a real legitimate accomplishment, made even better when you can say honestly that six of them fall between pretty good and great (discounting A.M. of course- sorry, but I'm not a fan). For Sky Blue Sky's critics, perhaps this is the album for you.
The record of re-clarification begins, fittingly, with "Wilco (The Song)". Here, Wilco is the prescribed treatment for your problems- a "whatever ails ya"-type of approach which (somehow) works, and doesn't come off hokey. You'll find the approach here is much different than what their last album brought. Where there were sprawling landscapes and solos on Sky Blue Sky, there are the niceties and simplicity of piano and some off-beat percussion. Think Summerteeth- my favorite Wilco record. Next up is "Deeper Down," which looks to dive past the playful nature of the first song, and explore some of the emotion that lies within these themes. Like a charm, it delivers, and also becomes one of the stronger musical portions contained on these eleven tracks. Then we reach "One Wing". A classic Wilco song if I've ever heard one (and I have). Starting slow, it builds on its strong folk introduction to include enough pop to carry, but not to be overbearing. A lot of the album is about support, or the underlying effort needed to get through certain experiences. This one talks about the malady of inadequacy or ineffectiveness, at least in the metaphor of only having "one wing" to function with. A charmer, and I think it should have been the first single.
As "Bull Black Nova" begins, it almost feels like you're listening to the aforementioned Sky Blue Sky again, but only the best parts. That album was experimental for the band in all the right ways, and to me, the influence still seems heavy here. Interestingly enough, the song's about a murder, yet remains fun to listen to. "You and I" next marks a very different vibe- both for the album and the band. Feist joins Jeff Tweedy for a soft and playful duet that dances along the relationship between two different people, something that would appear obvious from the name. This is the first duet to appear on a Wilco album, but something tells me it won't be the last, given how well this one turned out. Admittedly, "You Never Know" scared the crap out of me for the first few notes. I had terrible flashbacks to the utter failure that was Conor Oberst's latest effort. Then, I realized that the album's first single is actually just a venting of frustrations in a purely genuine and positively alt-country fashion. It's definitely one of the standouts, but like I said earlier, I prefer "One Wing" as the single, if only because I think it better captures the essence of the entire collection of songs better. Not to allow you to get too happy, "Country Disappeared" does a nice job of once again toning it down, and providing a thoroughly relaxing and pleasant interlude that probably ranks as one of their more notable slow songs.
"Solitaire" seems to reflect its name. To me (a big fan of solitaire) there's something inherently relaxing about playing a card game alone while listening to a calm and soothing CD. You also get to think a lot while playing the game, which may be what provided the inspiration here. Next, "I'll Fight" continues the support theme I mentioned earlier, but rather than talking about what Wilco will do for you, as Tweedy does in the opener, it is much more about what he, personally, will provide. If you notice, the album shifts to more singular, and one-on-one themes at the halfway mark, in comparison to the all-inclusive methods we saw at the onset. "Sonny Feeling" also reflects this, as it encourages looking on the brighter side of things, instead of sitting around waiting for the "other shoe to drop". It captures the energy of the entire album, while still standing on its own as a potential single down the line. Like the best Wilco tracks, it expertly combines classic country elements with enough folk and pop to keep fans all across the board engaged. Due to the outward appearance of several slower numbers earlier on, it makes sense that "Everlasting Everything" packs a bit more punch than you may be used to at the end of a Wilco album. Still, it does a great job of summing up the mood and the ideas as a whole, encouraging an embrace of the good- namely love- over everything else.
Though it's not the last album of their career (or at least, it isn't to my or anyone else's knowledge), Wilco (The Album) feels like an end to a successful and accomplished career for the band whom this effort is named for. With that in mind though, there's also a newfound energy and youthfulness at times that haven't been seen in awhile from the guys, so signs point to us definitely seeing an eighth album at some point in the future. Until then though, we've got this enjoyable and unique collection to hold us through. And for those who are in the New York City-Long Island area, Wilco's playing in Brooklyn in July. I'll be there, and I encourage readers to attend as well. Similarities for the record include Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Spoon and The Flaming Lips.
Best Track: "One Wing"