Week in Rock

Alex Schaaf

(wilcoworld.net)

If you haven’t heard of Wilco, I wouldn’t be surprised. They are not, and probably will never be, a household name. However, the Chicago band is becoming more and more well known as their highly acclaimed releases continue to pile up and their legendary status begins to grow.
Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer and songwriter of the group, formed the band after leaving Uncle Tupelo, a prominent alternative country group of the early ’90s.
Formed in 1994, Wilco has been known for never creating the same type of album, with its sound progressing from alt-country to pop to avant-garde rock to folk, and almost everywhere else.
The band’s lineup has also changed with almost every album, which naturally led to different sounds.
The band’s critical peak so far has been their 2002 album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” filled with incredible sonic moments and outstanding songwriting. The 2005 follow-up, “A Ghost Is Born,” didn’t quite reach the same heights, but instead displayed a more restrained style.
This year’s “Sky Blue Sky” has split the fan and critical base. Some call it refreshing, while others call it dull. Some call it “dad-rock” while others call it “breezy.”
I am inclined to lean toward the positive side for this album. While it is certainly not as compelling and open to multiple listens as “Foxtrot” or even “Ghost,” it is the logical progression in the band’s sound. That is, it is not logical at all.
Tweedy’s joy is in his unpredictability. He cannot be accused of doing anything that is a blatant sell-out to the masses. The band has always had an open taping policy, as well as relaxed rules on downloading.
For instance, the band has been streaming “Sky Blue Sky” for free from its official website for the past couple of months, where anyone can hop on and listen to the album in its entirety at no cost.
Wilco has always held the position that music is not a commodity, and there should not be many barriers to keep it from the public.
Musically, the band has also ignored expectations. After “Foxtrot,” most fans expected the band to become even more experimental and avant-garde, but in fact they went the other way.
Those that expected the trend to pick up again with “Sky Blue Sky” were again surprised. The lyrical content on this album is relatively straightforward compared to the rest of Tweedy’s material.
However, the musical material still packs a punch, especially when Tweedy and guitarist Nels Cline trade solos on an extended outro to “Impossible Germany,” the album’s third track.
Overall, “Sky Blue Sky” is a warm, rich mix of guitars, organs, piano and the ever solid drumming of Glenn Kotche. While it may not be a critic’s favorite for album of the year, it is the album that Wilco was meant to make.

(wilcoworld.net)

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