Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Album Review: Wilco (The Album)

Requester: EAN

I am such an overachiever! I promised my review of Wilco (The Album) tomorrow, but you’re getting it today! Let’s ignore the part where it took me about a month to actually get around to this. Now, I’m spoiling you all with this review because I’m going to actually use italics to differentiate the album title from the band name. I don’t really use italics in my posts because I find it unnecessary, but since the artist and album in this review share a name, I suppose I’ll use italics to make this post clear and simple.

Clear and simple you say? Why, that’s practically a segue into this review. Indeed, I would describe Wilco (The Album) as an exercise in elegant simplicity. Most of the tracks on this disc have a minimalistic arrangement. Long-time fans of the band might be a bit put off since the sound on this disc might not be as outwardly experimental and dissonant as previous efforts. However, I found the simplicity engaging. By stripping down the songs, Wilco has made it easy to tap into basic human emotions, in some cases on a surprisingly powerful level.

You and I is a lovely duet between lead singer Jeff Tweedy and Feist, which details two lovers trying to keep their relationship alive. It’s very basic in its construction, but the two singers give very honest vocal performances that elevate the material. Solitaire is probably the mellowest song on the CD, yet it manages to create a mood that reminds me of the very excellent Bon Iver CD from last year. As Tweedy sings, “It took too long to see I was wrong to believe in me,” the simple sorrow of the track washes over you.

All that being said, there are some more adventurous tunes on the disc. Bull Black Nova has a pulsating beat that reminds me of the song Psycho Killer, by The Talking Heads. Fitting, considering Bull Black Nova is a song about a guy who kills his girlfriend. Deeper Down also takes things in a more electronic direction, which evokes the feeling of Radiohead’s most recent CD. However, in describing these songs, I think I’ve highlighted my biggest criticism of the album. The influences are too obvious. Most of the time I feel like I’m listening to a knock-off of a better artist. Granted, almost all of the songs are top-notch. Yet, I can’t shake that nagging feeling that originality is lacking on Wilco (The Album). Ironic, given the title.

The bottom line is that Wilco (The Album) is full of lovely, emotional songs that occasionally push for a more experimental vibe. However, when Wilco tries for something new, they tend to sound more like something old. My suggestion: Work harder on the ballads, because they seem more authentic.. Simple, no?

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Savage Songs: You and I, Bull Black Nova, and Solitaire

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