14 May 2007

Wilco

Well the "new" Wilco CD is due to be released tomorrow. Of course, it has been available to download online for quite some time as my crack TA/student Caroline showed me early in the now completed spring term. I suppose that the "released" version will have better quality sound than the "pre-released" version ... or something. I am not sure I get all these distinctions though. How many kids have sound systems so good that they will be able to tell the difference? How many will do more than listen to the tunes on an iPod/mp3 player while actually doing something else (or several something elses)? In any case, here is a picture - shamelessly lifted from the band's web page - of Nels Cline, Wilco's very cool guitarist.

You can find a less than enthusiastic review from The Guardian (11 May 07) here. What follows is the more insightful review from The New York Times (14 May 07) where their normally very good reviewer nevertheless feels compelled to remind us that music can be intense, intricate, challenging and "weird" without being blaring and raucous. I suppose we need reminding?

"WILCO “Sky Blue Sky”
(Nonesuch)

Where did all the weird noises go? On Wilco’s pensive new album, “Sky Blue Sky,” the band takes its latest tangent by going back — though only partway — toward its old Americana.

As fans know, Jeff Tweedy upended Wilco’s career with “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” in 2002. He jettisoned old band members and embraced odd sounds and abstract lyrics, ultimately revitalizing the band. An even more daring studio album, “A Ghost Is Born,” followed in 2004, and then a lean but volatile live album, “Kicking Television,” in 2005. But “Sky Blue Sky” pretends that Wilco’s recent albums were just fever dreams.

The dozen songs on “Sky Blue Sky” generally sound like a band — often the Band — playing together in a room, usually with Mr. Tweedy singing quietly. After pondering the state of the nation in surreal imagery on Wilco’s recent albums, he returns to the personal, contemplating relationships that can be precarious or persistent. In “Please Be Patient With Me,” which might be an addict’s apology, he sings, “There’s nothing I can do to make this easier for you.”

That song, “Leave Me (Like You Found Me)” and a gorgeously hushed reflection on mortality, “On and On and On,” are plaintive and startlingly unguarded. But Mr. Tweedy catches himself before he turns into too much of a sad sack, letting the music buck him up in “Hate It Here” and “Walken.”

The production is straightforward, but the song structures aren’t; that’s where Wilco’s idiosyncrasies still hide out. The tunes amble into instrumental interludes that stack riffs into steely patterns or let Wilco’s lead guitarist, Nels Cline, slice through the calm surfaces. Wilco’s new music is contemplative, stripping away past distractions, but it’s far from placid. JON PARELES"

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4 Comments:

Blogger Natasha Mhatre said...

Completely unrelated to the actual content, the image on the Wilco cover is the winner of the 2005 Wildlife photographer of the year.

14 May, 2007 23:12  
Blogger Hans said...

no-depression greetings from Sweden.

http://myspace.com/kastrom

15 May, 2007 05:22  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Natasha, Not unrelated at all since I was actually wondering who had taken hat photograph as I made the post last night!

15 May, 2007 07:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the cover picture quite a bit, especially given the title. Sky Blue Sky, but the cover picture is in b & w, although obviously a shot where the (potentially) blue sky is the background. I wouldn't speculate too much about a deeper point being made, but it does make the cover "interactive" in an old-fashioned sense. I find myself actually staring at it and using my imagination to fill it with the color described in the title.

I only listened to the disc once, rather casually, but my first impression lends itself to thinking that the album is similarly subdued, but subtly more challenging/engaging.

By the way, anyone who likes this album or Wilco in general should check out M. Ward's Post-War on Merge Records.

Thanks for the forum Jim.

19 May, 2007 16:25  

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