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]

FT5: Greatest Disappointments of the 00s

0108top5coverAlright, so we just finished wrapping up the 00s, and it’s left some of us (namely me) feeling a bit nostalgic for a decade that went by way too quickly.  It left me thinking about things I ruined or things I succeeded in, but most of all, it’s left me reflecting upon the most disappointing moments in my life.  Oddly, I deflect my own animosity for my life, and turn to the world of music.  Below is the five most disappointing things for me, musically, in the decade that passed.  Some have a chance at redemption, but others, well, you blew it big time.

bengibbardstolemygirlfriend5. Ben Gibbard stole my girlfriend

Look, I know that this happened only recently, but I also have come to believe that Zooey‘s hotness has only increased exponentially in the past few years.  All that aside, it’s not just that Ben stole my girlfriend (really, he did!), but he stole the dreams of me and my many like-minded friends.  Out of nowhere, he popped up his now skinny head, and crushed the dreams of many.  Shame on you Ben Gibbard.

 
 

thewrens_meadowland4. The Wrens don’t put out another album

The Wrens put out Meadowlands, which is absoltuely one of my all time favorite albums, and that feeling of joy when I put the needle to the record will never fade away.  What did fade away was the feelings of joy I had in regard to The Wrens.  Lead man Charles did a little bit of work, most recently with Will from Okkervil River, which means dudes were getting work done.  Why didn’t I see any of it at all?  Why did they leave me just as I was falling in love? Nearly a decade with no new tunes? You fail.

 
 

wilco-yhf3. Wilco couldn’t replicate Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

You go against the odds and record one of the most brilliant masterpieces in modern pop music, one which everyone still talks about, but then you slowly decline all the way towards 2009s Wilco, the Album.  You can’t entirely blame the guys, as they lost Jay Bennett (as did we all, RIP), but they went from such great heights to such a low.  Not only this, but people somehow kept believing in them, as if they could bring back the magic.  I admit it! I was a sucker; I fell for it.  Never again Wilco!

 
 

weweredeadbeforetheshipevensank2. Modest Mouse sold out

Sure, this is the age-old debate about whether or not you deem it okay to allow your favorite secrets to better themselves and move their careers forward.  My answer? No!  Modest Mouse had the control of the indie world after Lonesome Crowded West; they could do no wrong.  Sure, a lot of people think Moon and Antartica was their best, but those people are wrong!  Modest Mouse went to the majors, lost their luster, and they lost a fan (though I know I’m not the only one).

 
 

ryanadams_cardinology1. Ryan Adams

I’ll admit that I was a little bit late jumping on the Ryan Adams train, but I jumped all the way on.  It baffles me how the guy that made Whiskeytown brilliant, then put out Heartbreaker, can rush down the hill of mediocrity so quickly.  I know he landed Mandy and all, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I willingly sat down to listen to things like 29 or CardinologyRyan Adams was my biggest disappointment.

 
 

Look, I know you all disagree with some of these, and I get that, but I had to let you know how disappointed I was in these things; isn’t time to be reflective, at least for another week? If you had a bigger disappointment, or want to tell me why I am wrong, we’re all for it! Leave a comment.

FT5: Album Closers

0731top5coverIn the current state of the music industry, we’re all overly concerned with singles, rather than the completed album.  But, long ago, people put thought and art into the creation of the ending of an album, the summation of their musical statement.  We all have sat in our rooms, at least I hope, waiting for that last song, that last breath of music, in hopes of the perfect summation to an album.  A brilliant closer almost always warrants a brilliant album, and we’ve compiled a list of our favorite album closers that always guarantee we listen to said album all the way through until the needles hits the vinyl and emits that hiss signaling the end of the record.
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R.I.P. Jay Bennett

jay-bennettAs you can see ATH is taking Memorial Day off, but we wanted to share some sad news with everyone before signing off.  Jay Bennett, formerly of Wilco, has passed away today at the young age of 45.  No cause of death has as of yet been reported.  The Chicago Sun Times has more information as it develops.  To say the least, this is the worst news we’ve ever reported on.  Jay was someone that we all admired here at ATH and loved most anything he worked on with or without Wilco.  Jay will be best remembered as one of the creative minds behind historic Wilco albums Being There, Summer Teeth, and the big one Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  Words won’t do you justice Mr. Bennett, so we’ll just say that you will sorely be missed by all.  Your music was far ahead of its time.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/11-my-darling.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]