After three years of side projects, solo albums, and the occasional concert, Wilco are now readying their follow up to 2016s Schmilco. Ode To Joy is set to drop on October 4th, 2019 on Wilco’s own dPbm label. From the sound of first single “Love is Everywhere(Beware)” we’re going to be treated to a bunch of breezy, folks-y songs in the vein of everything they’ve put out since 2007s Sky Blue Sky. Depending on what your current state of Wilco fandom is that’s either really great news, or at the very least news.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Wilco. Next to the Beatles they’re the single most important band in my music world. Ever since 1996s Being There I’ve been a true blue admirer of Jeff Tweedy as a songwriter, lyricist, and band leader(and as just a human being.) Wilco had a quartet of albums from 1996 to 2004 that re-wired my brain in ways not many albums have, and they also molded me into the songwriter I would eventually become.
I continued to love their albums, but maybe because the band became the home for so many talented musicians in their own right that they tried too hard on record to downplay it, sort of putting their individual musical superpowers on the back burner. They either sounded like they were trying to hold back part of the time, or they were sounding overly difficult other times. The rawness and experimentation had waned.
Jeff Tweedy’s 2013 Sukierae, to my ears, felt like a return to that raw power he showed so much a decade before. I was excited to see where that may lead, which it led to the surprisingly loose Star Wars. Then Schmilco a year later, which felt like a holding pattern.
Now, Ode to Joy.
Okay, I’ve only heard one song so I can’t say it’s gonna be another breezy, folks-y album by Wilco. But according to Jeff Tweedy himself, the album will be filled with “really, big, big, folk songs.” So there’s that. Either way, the new song is lovely and it sounds well ornamented. Tweedy sounds good, too.
Hearing this song yesterday led me to Loose Fur’s 2003 debut album. Loose Fur was the side project of Tweedy, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, and Jim O’Rourke. They released two records in the 2000s and they were both dark, exciting, experimental, and sounded loose and raw. The self-titled came out in-between Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born, where as their next and final album Born Again In The USA came out in 2006. They came out of a very tense, fruitful time in Tweedy’s existence, and one where he seemed open musically to just go anywhere. His friendship with O’Rourke played a part in that, as did his relationship with then new drummer Kotche.
I guess I pine for those days. Not the dark places Tweedy went. I don’t go for the tortured artist thing. But that flying by the seat of your pants in your art. I haven’t heard that in Wilco for a long time. I think Tweedy came close to it again with Sukierae; that pared down sound, the not overly complicated.
Anyways, I’m stepping down from my soapbox. Turning off the bullhorn. There’s a new Wilco album coming out in October, and that’s reason to be excited. And the new single really is lovely. Check it out below.
Then listen to Loose Fur’s “Chinese Apple”, if it be your will.