Wilco – The Whole Love

Rating: ★★★½☆

After a string of moderately received albums, many wondered if The Whole Love would be the record where Wilco return to form.  If you ask long time fans, you might get some skepticism, but by and large, this is probably one of the most enjoyable listens for the band since the days of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

“Art of Almost” opens with bits of sporadic noise gurgling through your speakers.  For those familiar with Wilco‘s foray into bits of experimental Americana, this might seem like a throwback.  Instead, light string arrangements open up to Tweedy’s voice, with him sounding as confident as he’s sounded in years. There’s an open density to this song, and the band does a decent job of filling in the spaces, though some editing might have been sufficient.

“I Might” demonstrates the great strides the band has made since their beginning, with a bit of a stomp pushing the number forward.  It’s about as far away from their early days as one could get, but if you can’t enjoy Jeff’s delivery during the chorus, then you might want to get your ears checked. Similarly, “Dawned on Me” has a very modern feel, with a an emphatic bit of bounce meeting up with guitar bits that slice through the steady melody of the track.  For all their soft moments on the last two records, The Whole Love seems to show a revitalized group just kicking out solid numbers.

While a great bit of the record focus on these decent pop numbers, there’s a bit of casual warmth that breaks up the possible monotony that listeners see coming.  “Open Mind” is about as slow a track as you’ll find from Wilco on this outing, and its got the powerful Tweedy owning the song, with a gentle slide guitar riding in the background.  Admittedly, its far from spectacular, but it serves a great purpose breaking up the pacing just enough to allow a bit of a breather for the record.  It’s a tactic the band use well, and they go at it again with “Red Rising Lung,” which follows the rocker “Standing O,” in so much as the band give us an all out rocker.

One of the interesting things about listening to The Whole Love is that there seems to be an odd sense of comfort in the band’s songwriting.  After several albums, and several more, Wilco seems intent on just enjoying the process of writing a good song. It’s not a record that breaks new ground or challenges record labels, but it’s full of great songs that you can go back to time and time again, each instance finding yourself a new favorite track. It all makes for one of the better listens in the band’s recent catalog.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/02-I-Might.mp3]

Download: Wilco – I Might [MP3]

FTC: Uncle Tupelo

While recently pondering the music world and my depression with the current state of Wilco, I started thinking back to a time when I really dug Jeff Tweedy’s music.  A time when Tweedy used to write music with current Son Volt front man Jay Farrar in the alt-country group Uncle Tupelo.  Now I can’t obviously claim that my young self was around when this band started up in the late 80s, but I do know that I’ve been smitten with them ever since I heard the twang of “Screen Door” off their rough edged debut LP No Depression.  That record introduced a band to the world with some young kids who couldn’t decide on punk or country, so they just decided to fuse the two.  Of course Uncle Tupelo is long since gone after many years together and many country jam filled albums under their belt.  With that huge discography, it’s tough to choose a favorite, but I’ve got to stick with their final album of 1993 Anodyne.  I’m also going with the album closer “Steal the Crumbs” which sort of seems right as a send off to the band since it appears as the closing track on their last recorded album together.  Sad…

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/12-Steal-The-Crumbs.mp3]

Free Album From Jay Bennett

Jay Bennett, most well known for his work in Wilco during their rise to stardom, has a new solo album you can download for free from the Rock Proper website.  The new album entitled Whatever Happened I aplogize is the 5th solo release by Bennett after his 2001 departure from Wilco.  Some people in the music world say Bennett has never receieved enough credit for creating the unique sound heard on the stellar 2002 Wilco album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  Don’t get us started on the current state of Wilco…  Here’s a track from Bennett’s new album called “The Engines are Idle”.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/04-the-engines-are-idle.mp3]

Download: Jay Bennett – The Engines are Idle [MP3]