In just a little over a week Wilco will release their new album, the grandly-titled Ode To Joy.
It’s been a few years since a new Wilco album was something I was hotly anticipating. I’d say Wilco(The Album) was the last record of theirs where I was chomping at the bit and waiting by the mailbox for it to arrive. That album ended up being kind of a misfire for me. The beginning of the “too many cooks in one kitchen” thing. Six extremely talented guys trying to fill out Tweedy’s songs, only making things more complicated than they needed to be. This led to The Whole Love, which was even more overly-complicated tracks, albeit with a few really great one strewn throughout.
The best of the post-A Ghost Is Born albums were the ones that didn’t sound like six guys playing. Sky Blue Sky and Star Wars were great in their own ways. The former for its laid back, reflective mood; the latter for its loose rock and roll spirit. Nothing overly thought out or filled with clever music tricks. Just great songs played with conviction. Tweedy sounding healthy but raw on Sky Blue Sky, while sounding fresh and reinvigorated just off the magnificent Sukierae throughout Star Wars.
I’m getting those vibes from what I’ve heard off Ode To Joy. I’m hearing a band reinvigorated. I’m hearing six incredible musicians coming together to sound smaller than six musicians, but precise in delivering melody, words, and movement. Where first single “Love Is Everywhere(Beware)” was cautiously optimistic with a hint of existential dread thrown in, their newest single “Everybody Hides” has this sense of whimsy that we haven’t heard in a couple albums. When a 6-piece band filled with musicians at the very top of the music chain(Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche are immense musicians in rock, jazz, and avante garde) can sound like 70s AM radio staples like the Raspberries or early 80s indie rock like The Feelies, you know things are working. “Everybody Hides” is all head-bopping and sugary pop melodies. It’s one of those songs you throw on every mix tape you hand out to friends. Jeff Tweedy has become quite the studio guy, producing Mavis Staples, Sukierae, as well as his own stuff. Jumping into the production shoes for his main gig only seems natural, and it sounds like a perfect fit here.
I always enter into an album cautiously optimistic that it will be a great one. With Wilco, especially. So far, Ode To Joy is looking to be a great return to form. As Jeff Tweedy once said in an interview talking about Sky Blue Sky, “I think now is a good time to sit down and sing people some . . . songs. That’s what I want, just someone to sing me a song, you know?”
I do know, and I’d like that Jeff.
Ode To Joy arrives October 4th on dBpm Records. Preorder it here.