Wilco (the album)

Talk about eponymous. Wilco wrap themselves in Wilco three-times fold by anointing both their album and opening track Wilco -“The Album” and “The Song.” But in a strange way it fits because the band’s 7th studio album delves into the quintessential sounds of the band without breaking much new ground, a departure from the experimentation of their last 3 albums. It’s also the band’s 2nd album in a row that comes from a place of contentment following years of mayhem and dysfunction.

Wilco’s line-up has settled down and features longtime members Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt joined by Glenn Kotche, Mikael Jorgensen, Nels Cline, and Pat Sansone. The band began putting this recording together in their Chicago loft but eventually settled on recording the disc in New Zealand. The biggest impact this may have had on the recording is the band’s narrowed choice of instruments. The album features a more traditional rock configuration of guitar, bass, percussion and keyboards; gone are the horns, strings, and other assorted sounds of past albums (with the exception being a lone horn on “Everlasting Everything.”)

Tweedy’s writing ranges from humorous (the title track is a gentle poke at narcissism and a nod to their fan-base) to the political as on the biting disillusionment of “Country Disappointment.” The deceptively sweet sounding “I’ll Fight” is actually a scary take on martyrdom. There are a couple of departure points on the new record: “You And I” is a duet with Canadian songstress Feist -a first for the band in adding an outside voice and a female to boot. The dark, brooding “Bull Black Nova,” follows the psychological descent of a killer who finds himself ensnared by guilt and raw tension in the aftermath of a murder.

There is a mellow hue to Wilco (The Album); brushed drums, whining steel guitar, piping organ and lots of acoustic guitar replace the dissonant sounds of earlier releases. There’s a lot less grinding guitar but there is a very nice nod to George Harrison’s signature sound on the single “You Never Know.” It also features a little bit of fuzz guitar and one of album’s best lines “Come on children, you’re acting like children.” Tweedy said the band allowed itself to sculpt the album in the studio by using overdubs and “using the studio as another instrument.” After all those years of turmoil Wilco has settled down into a cohesive group of musicians with a distinct sound and seem to be proving that harmony in the band begets harmony in the studio.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)