Drummer Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline are the most obviously reined in. Many of Kotche’s rhythms are heavy and square. Summerteeth concludes with a stretch of music that feels like a redemption arc.
wilkowyje – Discography
In 2015, Wilco surprise-released a record called Star Wars,” a surreal assemblage of songs that had nothing to do with the legendary movie franchise. He had good reason to reflect on his life. This has been a tumultuous decade for Tweedy; his wife endured successful but arduous cancer treatments, his sons grew up and moved out, and his father died unexpectedly, all while a cloud of anger and alienation settled in over American life in general. As he worked through all this on the page, he also began revisiting his past on record. The dreary and understated Schmilco was the least essential, least compulsively listenable Wilco release to date, an album that took work to love from a band whose albums used to be spellbinding on impact. But like most of Tweedy’s late-career work, it was a grower, and in hindsight it may have been the sound of a legendary artist rebooting before a renaissance.
Most fans don’t think of Wilco as a political band, per se. But in new songs like Before Us” and Citizens,” it’s obvious you’re upset about everyday violence in our society and lies being told by various people in high places.
The band’s forthcoming album, Ode To Joy, will be out October 4, 2019. The band will be touring Europe and North America extensively surrounding its release.
Even when it may appear that they’re spinning in place on later records, further listens reveal a complex, and often challenging, band working hard at its craft. Few modern-day records sound as rich and as rewarding, as you’ll see in our below list of Wilco Albums Ranked Worst to Best.
I had never seen Wilco, nor was I familiar with their music, but 2 buddies of mine love the band, so I went with one of them to Radio City for a sold out show (6,000 seats). After suffering through the worst opening act ever, Daughter of Swords (indecipherable, boring and depressing), I was ready for something special. I listened to 3 distinctly different albums lent to me, and liked some, but not all. That was pretty much the story of the show – liked some, and others not so much. Some of their more discordant music sounds downright strange (to my ear) and incompatible with other more harmonious tunes. I would have liked Jeff Tweedy to talk to the audience a little, and perhaps offer some context to his tunes, but apparently he rarely does, and he didn’t on this night, either. In the end, after 130 minutes, All said, it was an interesting experience, if not my favorite first-time show.
After the release of Wilco’s Grammy award wining album, A Ghost Is Born”, they would stabilize their lineup with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone and avant-garde jazz guitarist Nels Cline. Although one might expect Wilco’s sound to become even more experimental with the addition of an avant-garde guitarist, in fact their next album Sky Blue Sky” showed Wilco moving further away from experimentation and following a style that was deeply rooted in the folk and Americana genres, which conveyed inspiration from artists like The Byrds and Bob Dylan. The Grammy nominated album showed that Wilco could perfect the sound of ‘70s soft rock and broadened the diversity of Wilco’s audience.
Then they got gloriously weird. Wilco’s third LP, Summerteeth, is a dense and disturbing record, a metaphysical and emotional bloodletting with a palpable menace lurking just beneath its confectionary surface. Lushly recorded at Willie Nelson’s studio in Spicewood, Texas, its tales of debauchery and betrayal are carried along by swooping synths and candy-colored harmonies.
Alpha Mike Foxtrot features 64 pages of liner notes that include track-by-track recollections from Tweedy, notes by band members Nels Cline and John Stirratt, and reflections from members of Wilco’s extended professional family. The booklet also showcases dozens of archival and never-before-seen photos from a wide array of photographers chronicling all phases of the band’s career.
I dreamed about killing you again last night, and it felt alright to me.” That’s a hell of a way to begin a song, and a hellish way. Just when the sleepy acoustic guitar chords out front of Via Chicago” have lulled you into a stupor, Jeff Tweedy arrives to announce his shrugging approval toward the prospect of murdering someone he loves.
Wilco responded to the disappointment with the energetic industriousness of the Midwest unionists they are and forged 1996’s unstoppable double LP tour de force Being There, which stretched the band’s musical muscles from Dwight Twilley-worthy power pop to Workingman’s Dead-style cosmic ruminations. Being There massively outperformed expectations, sold nearly twice as many copies as A.M., and made Wilco a minted commodity with a rabid following.
Following his two solo albums, WARM and WARMER, and memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Tweedy gathered Wilco to The Loft in Chicago. While all six members of the band can be heard on every song, Tweedy and Glenn Kotche were the launching pad from which most of the songs on Ode to Joy materialized – Kotche’s percussion propels the music forward while Tweedy’s measured words flesh out the cleared paths. As a result, the album is comprised of really big, big folk songs, these monolithic, brutal structures that these delicate feelings are hung on,” as described by Tweedy. Across the entire album, drums pound and plod with a steady one-two pulse, meant to mimic the movement of marching—a powerful act utilized on both sides of the authoritarian wall. There’s also a sense of comfort that comes with the rhythmic marching sound.
The sense that love can, if not conquer all, at least provide a way to navigate the world, guides the relatively brisk Everyone Hides,” a single that came packaged with a video brimming with good-hearted mischief. That playfulness is largely missing from most of the music, and one yearns for a few more tear-it-up moments from Cline, or a more expansive playing field for Kotche, a world-class percussionist.
The album’s themes and the band’s broader potential finally converge on We Were Lucky,” its murky undertow hinting at greater turbulence. The singer’s good fortune feels shaky at best. As Cline’s agitated guitar solo jabs through the surface, it confirms the narrator’s doubts. It’s a thrilling reminder that expectations can be upended at any moment, even on a quietly uneasy folk album.
Chicagoans have a lot of love for Wilco, and Right Bee Cider co-founders Charlie Davis and Katie Morgan are a proud part of that love affair. The alternative rock band Wilco is still going strong. They’re not glitzy or glamorous, but they’re great musicians who put on an amazing live show.
Wilco’s first studio album after a short hiatus, Ode to Joy,” isn’t so much a triumphal return as a small record about big moments. The two Mermaid Avenue albums consisted of recordings of unreleased Woody Guthrie (pictured) songs.
In the late 1990s, a vogue for ’60s nostalgia permeated rock music’s hipper circles, ranging from Elliott Smith’s heart-on-sleeve McCartney-isms to the Flaming Lips’ acid-drenched psych-redux to the historical recreationist lo-fi of groups like Olivia Tremor Control. While Summerteeth’s throwback aesthetics positioned it as a part of that wave, perhaps the album’s finest virtue was the integration of nostalgic reference points with modernist and avant touches, signaling a working knowledge of the canon and a willingness to alchemize its elements into something daring and novel.
The ChiThe Chicago band Wilco’s 10th studio album, Schmilco, is available now. Schmilco features 12 new songs written by Jeff Tweedy and is the band’s third release on their own dBpm Records. It follows Star Wars, which was released for free and as a surprise in July 2015.
Nonesuch Records picked up the album and the official release came out in early 2002 to widespread critical acclaim. Meanwhile, an independent film documenting the drama surrounding the album entitled I Am Trying to Break Your Heart followed in the fall of 2002. During the down time after the album was recorded, Tweedy composed and recorded the film score to the Ethan Hawke film Chelsea Walls, which ended up being released around the same time as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Though it encompasses traditional elements, Ode to Joy” (dBpm Records) falls on the quirkier side of the Wilco spectrum, an album that prizes subtlety and intimacy over immediacy and dynamics.
These raw, skeletal, noisy explorations glimpse those old glories without sounding like retreads because Tweedy and friends have a new normal to circumvent. At the peak of their powers, they were deconstructing the pop-minded alt-country Tweedy had helped to pioneer with Uncle Tupelo and his earliest Wilco recordings. Ode To Joy dissects the version of Wilco that emerged when they shed their skin and once again became a rock band playing together in a room, albeit a very different rock band than the one that made A.M. and Mermaid Avenue. Latter-day Wilco is leaner and lither, and the revolutionary version of latter-day Wilco follows suit.
I started getting nervous about whether we were going to have time, in just a couple of weeks, to get a record up off the ground. So I laid the groundwork with Glenn Kotche, drummer of Wilco. It was meant to just be the scaffolding, but it ended up being on the record. And then, when we all got together, we played together over those tracks. A lot of the overdubs were done in groups.
Kotche: I’m actually surprised to hear that he had 60 songs ready to go. He has a lot of songs from the past that have never seen the light of day or haven’t ever been tried out in the studio. He has a lot of little nuggets and ideas for songs. As for the process, it comes down to finding songs that we really get excited about, that we think are cool, new and original and are something that will make a record better. Sometimes, you have a great song but it just doesn’t fit with the other ones on the record. It’s a collective experience, but Jeff has the final say. If he’s really into the song, we’re going to keep trying it to see if we can get something out of it.
Summerteeth, released 20 years ago this Saturday, is Wilco’s contribution to a common trope in pop music history: The prettiest songs are often about the ugliest subjects. It comes up sometimes when discussing the work of Elliott Smith. Eva Hendricks from Charly Bliss has invoked it during the rollout for the band’s upcoming Young Enough. Hey Ya,” Semi-Charmed Life,” 99 Luftballoons” — three infectious bops about a breakup, drug addiction, and nuclear war respectively. Summerteeth exists as part of that lineage. It’s the most gorgeously ornate album Wilco ever made, and also the most disturbing.
Not only was Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” a landmark album for Wilco that launched the band into the mainstream, but it was a landmark album for music history. Rolling Stone has labeled the album the third best album of the 2000’s and has included it on the list of top 500 albums of all time. Other publications have also highly praised the album such as Pitchfork who called it the fourth best album of the 2000’s. The album contains many of Wilco’s best songs to date including I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”, War on War”, and Jesus, Etc.” Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is also relevant for being the last album that guitarist Jay Bennett would perform on and the first album that would include the drummer Glenn Kotche.
Their second album all but abandoned the alt-country framework that housed A.M., Trace and Uncle Tupelo. Being There basically unraveled like the history of rock ‘n’ roll over two sprawling albums of psychedelic pop, ragtag post-punk and meaty classic rock.
CLINE: Or it doesn’t fit into a set. One thing that’s predictable, so far, since at least the last 15 years, is that when we play live, we’re pretty much gonna rock, by the end. Just forget your troubles and cut loose, go to another place for awhile. And I think that as a result of that, there’s a lot of quirkier material that’s hard to fit into a set, without it being too circuitous a route for the audience members. Jeff slaves over a hot setlist nightly. It’s an effort to challenge and please at the same time, and have the trajectory toward that catharsis at the end.
Dow: ‘Art of Almost,’ the opening track on ‘The Whole Love,’ just grabs you from the beginning. It has a vibe of ‘Broken Arrow’ (Buffalo Springfield) meets ‘A Day in the Life’ a huge sonic buildup that gives way to Jeff’s voice. He’s just floating there at the top before you come grooving in with that crazy ‘mad scientist’ drum pattern. It’s a perfect opening to the record.
The whole No Depression thing was funny to us because people seemed to forget that Jeff was a bigger punk-rock fan than a country fan. It led to things like us all switching instruments on “Misunderstood,” where I’m playing guitar.
Not everything on the album is so dark. Summerteeth concludes with a stretch of music that feels like a redemption arc. There’s real tenderness in the lullaby My Darling” and the lazy back porch reverie When You Wake Up Feeling Old.” The title track finds some kind of resolution as it breezes from snappy twang to sighing rhapsody, though even the apparent reconciliation is oblique enough to keep listeners guessing. And on gentle closing track In A Future Age,” Tweedy buys into the possibility of change, bookending his album-opening cries that Your prayers will never be answered again!” with a call to turn our prayers to outrageous dares.” Yet despite things generally looking up at the end, the album remains a document of Tweedy at one of his lowest moments.
Leaked tracks from the album surfaced on the Internet in late 2001, and the stripped-down lineup of Tweedy, Kotche, Stirratt, and multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach embarked on a small tour to support – or drum up support for – the unreleased record. Nonesuch Records picked up the album and officially released it in early 2002 to widespread critical acclaim. Meanwhile, an independent film documenting the drama surrounding the album (I Am Trying to Break Your Heart) followed in the fall of 2002. During the down time after the album was recorded, Tweedy composed and recorded the film score to the Ethan Hawke film Chelsea Walls, which ended up being released around the same time as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Leaked tracks from the album surfaced on the Internet in late 2001, and the stripped-down lineup of Tweedy , Kotche , Stirratt , and multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach embarked on a small tour to support – or drum up support for – the unreleased record. Nonesuch picked up the album and officially released it in early 2002 to widespread critical acclaim. Meanwhile, an independent film documenting the drama surrounding the album (I Am Trying to Break Your Heart) followed in the fall of 2002. During the downtime after the album was recorded, Tweedy composed and recorded the film score to the Ethan Hawke film Chelsea Walls, which ended up being released around the same time as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
I think it did a disservice to the last two records that we created the atmosphere of them being really low-stakes,” Tweedy admits now, as the band prepares to release Ode to Joy, their eleventh album, due October 4. He can’t seem to help himself with the title: Just like Star Wars, there’s a direct allusion to a canonical work of art that bears no immediately obvious relation to the music. Still, things feel different. The title points toward the outside world in a way that its predecessors did not; it would be easy to interpret Ode to Joy as a straightforward refutation of our present era’s endless malaise.
When you pre-order a copy of Ode to Joy from this store between July 16, 2019 and October 1, 2019, you will automatically become eligible to win prizes in a random drawing happening on each of the following Tuesdays at 3 PM, Central European Time: August 27, September 17 and October 1. Orders placed after 2:00 PM EST the day of the drawing will not be eligible to win until the following weekly drawing. Contestants can only win once. See here for full rules and restrictions.
Crock, Jason (May 7, 2007). “Interview: Wilco” Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on June 8, 2007. Sunday night’s show marked the first time Jeff Tweedy and co. had set foot in the Grand Ole Opry House, and it felt like perfect timing.
The music suggests a more complicated meaning. Sparse in texture and elemental in rhythm, it’s more like a somber meditation than a raucous celebration. Ode to Joy pulls Wilco far away from the identity as breezy life-affirming roots-rockers that they’ve inhabited on and off for the second half of their career, always with the impression of some reluctance. The album’s signature sound is the thwack of a snare drum, mic’ed so closely that you can practically hear the woodgrain of the stick, ringing out steadily through otherwise quiet songs about delusion, loss, and the faint hope of recovery. After the chiming leads that drive lead single Love Is Everywhere (Beware) ,” the most memorable guitar part isn’t a catchy riff or hook of any sort, but something like a free improv meltdown in the middle of a spaghetti western soundtrack.
And empathy’s surely on the table here, not that it hasn’t always been a defining attribute of band led by our great, wry, American consolation-poet,” as novelist George Saunders put it. But the present moment seems to call for a doubling-down on whatever you’ve got, and the fittingly-named Ode To Joy opens, fittingly, with what sounds a lot like sadness: a woozy, noise-scarred lament about stasis and stuff buried in the snow, sung in a wheezy voice over a death-march beat pounded out with what might be boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese. But the energy picks up, the melody brightens, rain melts the snow, guitar notes sparkle, something like love shines through, and it winds up sounding joyful indeed, in a hard-won way.
But anyone who comes to Ode to Joy” expecting Beethovenian rapture and millions embracing will likely be perplexed by this enigmatic 11-song collection. The album is mostly slow and muted, as though, a quarter-century into its existence, Wilco had suddenly become suspicious of the whole idea of being a rock band. Drummer Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline are the most obviously reined in. Many of Kotche’s rhythms are heavy and square. Cline gets a couple of brief freak-out solos (in the bleak We Were Lucky”); elsewhere his work is largely confined to adding subtle washes of color to a largely acoustic texture. Every guitar is denied,” Jeff Tweedy sings in Quiet Amplifier,” a line that functions almost like a statement of purpose.
The band’s second album Being There” showed Wilco incorporating more experimental sounds into their music, which would continue throughout their career and would play a huge impact on their most critically acclaimed album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”.
Heralded as, the best rock band in America” by NPR, the Englert is excited to present Wilco at one of our region’s notable and historic performance venues, The Paramount Theatre. We are privileged to work alongside a fellow arts ally, in a continued effort to foster collaboration beyond the walls of our theater.
Wilco continued their new musical trend with the next album which, although not as universally acclaimed as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot , was more than a worthy follow up. A Ghost Is Born presented a heavy dose of guitar noise and one song that droned on with background noise and subtle electronic clicks and buzzes for so long that it challenged the listener to keep their finger off the “Next” button. But it wasn’t all experimental and contained enough conventional rock and pop hooks to keep one’s interest.