A week ago the 10 top-selling records understandably belonged to Michael Jackson. Who was number 11? Wilco, of course.
For the past 15 years, Jeff Tweedy has been notorious for his demanding visionary persona, expecting nothing less than perfection from every Wilco album. Throughout their seventh studio album, entitled Wilco (the album), it is clear that all six members were aware of Tweedy’s expectations.
The album was not laid down in the band's Chicago loft, but rather in New Zealand while they were traveling. It was the second consecutive album with all of the same members remaining in the group.
If you listen carefully enough, it is obvious that each track has been crafted meticulously, both lyrically and instrumentally, to convey a sound that that seems calculated, mathematical even. Tweedy flawlessly croons brilliant lyrics while the other members accompany him with their instrumental specialties--John Stirratt on the bass, Nels Cline handling the electric and lap steel guitar, Glenn Kotche working the drums and percussion, Pat Sansone on the electric and harpsichord, and Mikael Jorgenson handling the piano and organ. They synchronize to form a sound that is familiar to faithful Wilco fans, yet refreshingly reviving at the same time. It seems like Tweedy and co. created a culmination of the epic works 2002’s “Yankee Foxtrot Hotel” and of 2004’s “Ghost Is Born.”
Although it may seem unusual that a self-titled album would appear 15 years after the group’s formation, it is timely for Wilco (the band). By the time the eleventh track ends, it is overwhelmingly clear that they have cohesively established a mature sound, of both consistency and surprise.
Perhaps it is self-titled because the high contrast of light and dark throughout the album encapsulates Wilco as a band. Tweedy and his guys can get lost in a series of perpetual jamming and the next moment they are fading into a soft lullaby. That is the beauty of this album.
For instance, the track “Bull Black Nova,” a ballad filled with paranoia and dissonant organ and piano sounds, segues into “You and I,” a soft, romantic collaboration with Leslie Feist. The two tracks are juxtaposed as extremes, taking the listener on an emotionally charged ride, naturally Tweedy’s specialty.
The album kicks off with a sing-along track entitled “Wilco (the song),” which is said to be a love song written to Wilco’s fans. It is a sing-along that you will be happy to have in your head: "Are you under the impression/ This isn't your life?/Do you dabble in depression?/ Is someone sticking a knife in your back?/ Oh this is a fact/ That you need to know/ Oh, oh, oh, oh Wilco/ Wilco will love you baby."
My favorite track on the album slowly became "Solitaire." It's obvious that Jeff embarks on some serious self-reflection: "Once I thought the world was crazy/ Everyone was sad and chasing/ happiness and love/ and I was the only one above it." Another bonus to the track is Nels on the lap steel guitar. The way he collaborates with Jeff on the acoustic and even Pat on the vibraphone transcends the listener. Jeff adds in almost a whisper, "Took too long to see/ I was wrong to believe in me only." After a series of songs regarding his depression and dark drug addiction, it's comforting to hear something uplifting from a man who has boldly paved the incendiary path of Wilco.
There is a unique medley of tracks throughout the album that gives the listener a variety of moods to choose from. Anyone can extract a hook or lyric from a track that evokes a range of thought or emotion. It’s unconditionally guaranteed; as Tweedy says, “Wilco will love you baby.”
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