Arts & Events

Wilco LP triumphs

After visiting Toronto-based sandwich shop Sky Blue Sky, Wilco’s lead singer and songwriter Jeff Tweedy took to his Facebook page and commented that, “Lunch was really good, but, to be honest, I prefer their earlier more experimental sandwiches.”

Critics and fans alike had berated Wilco for playing it safe on their albums after “A Ghost is Born.” The musical quality was still leagues above most of the younger rock bands playing on the radio, but Wilco had set the bar so high with their previous albums that it was difficult for listeners to accept a record like “Sky Blue Sky” that was, frankly, so gentle.

The peanut gallery can be momentarily silenced, for Wilco’s self-produced eighth LP, “The Whole Love,” is a fine mix of what the band does best.

With musical arrangements built out of controlled chaos and lyrics that are pure poetry, Wilco flexes its artistic muscle. The result is a record full of complexity and beauty. New and old fans alike will not be disappointed.

Right off the bat, the band challenges their critics with a song that is easily the most experimental track on the album. “Art of Almost” is, most notably, an instrumental journey that produces some furious sounds. In particular, Nels Cline’s fierce guitar playing at the end of the song is a must-hear.

With “Dawned on Me,” Tweedy proves that he is still capable of balancing cleverness with catchiness. Wilco brings the high energy with bouncy musical arrangements and when Tweedy sings in his raspy croon, “Every night is a test to the East or the West, the sun rises and sets,” it becomes clear that not only is this album a nod to early Wilco but it has a deeper focus.

Tweedy’s lyrics consistently reflect upon the torment of a long distance romance.

“Black Moon” and “Rising Red Lung” are the two heartbreaker tracks of the album. Tweedy drops his vocals until he is singing in a husky whisper and the rest of the band musically mimics his tone.

Tweedy confesses on “Black Moon” that he is, “Waiting for you, waiting forever, waiting on you,” and in “Rising Red Lung” he repeats the line, “As intimate as a kiss over a phone.”

Elements of previous LPs are visible throughout the album. “Capitol City,” “Born Alone” and “I Might” are tracks that would fit nicely into a record like “Summerteeth,” for example.

However, by no means does this suggest that Wilco has gone stale. This may be its eighth LP, but Wilco excels on “The Whole Love.”

By releasing a record on its own label, dBpm Records, Wilco has given itself the artistic freedom to produce music it believes in.

If a listener’s faith in Wilco has been shaken in the past few years, let it be restored. It is clear that “The Whole Love” was not created by a motivation for money.

This LP is not Wilco’s last ditch attempt to stay relevant in the rock and roll world. “The Whole Love” is a wonderful record that showcases some of alt-rock’s best artists doing what they enjoy the most: making music.