Few bands can reinvent themselves and still come out in a good place. When Chicago’s Wilco went from alt country to indie rock tinged folk, it seemed like they did so better than many who’d tried and failed before them. Wilco is an American rock band first, and whatever genre you want to place them in afterwards. On their new album Ode To Joy, they bring all of their strengths to the table and leave listeners with an album rife with heavy instrumentation that falls perfectly on the ears.
Wilco has always made albums that stir something inside the listener, but here the music goes further. The off kilter opener “Bright Leaves” flexes on instrumentation. The track has these notes that seemingly come from outer spaces while Tweedy drops folky talk singing throughout. Though things pick up after the traditional introductory track. “Before Us” has a soul that we haven’t heard from the band in a while. The honesty of the track will stay with you while the band feels more like a strengthened unit. The enigmatic tones of “Love is Everywhere (Beware)” shows how strong the band is together at this point in their career. Between the meandering notes and Tweedy’s vocals, the band walks a thin line between their past and present with ease.
Though with the folk touched notes that lie on the album, there are surprises that are more welcomed. While “Quiet Amplifier” has a welcoming feel, songs like “Everyone Hides” and “White Wooden Cross” feature a more upbeat sound. Without jumping head first into pop with these tracks, the band keeps things hook filled while displaying a composure through artfully arranged songs that are at the top of their game. This occurs again on “Hold Me Anyway,” with Tweedy shouldering a happy-go-lucky pace full of lush tones that check the boxes of every fan. But while these up songs are great and the more folk based tracks are wondrous, our favorite song on the album came with “Citizens.” Steering the ship a little close to Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot era Wilco, the song has all of that inner darkness that made the transition from alt-country to straight rock and roll icons feel more personal. In many ways though, the bulk of the album is difficult not to love. For a casual fan or for the ardent one, Ode To Joy is Wilco sounding their best since A Ghost Is Born.
Ode To Joy is available for pre-order on multiple formats directly from Wilco before its release tomorrow, in multiple bundles and on various formats. Wilco will be on tour October 08 in Toronto, ON at Budweiser Stage until January 25, 2020 in Mexico City, Mexico at Teatro Metropolitan. The band’s complete touring schedule can be located here.
Image Credits: Photo by Annabel Mehren.