Tag Archives: Wilco

Day 209: Wilco – The Whole Love

25 Sep

I Might

*note* I’m currently being attacked by a cold of monstrous proportions.   In that previous sentence alone, I misspelled 5 different words.  One of them was “by.”  I’ll clean this post up and add a song tomorrow, as the nyquil is quickly going to worhuiiiiiiiiewU;EF

I’m not going to try to hide anything.  I’m a huge fan of The Wilcos.  If you’ve been here for a while, you already knew that—I welcomed in Day 100 with an entire week dedicated to the band.  More recently, I gathered my entire family around our laptops in a quest to snag tickets to Wilco’s upcoming Chicago show at the Civic Opera House.  We got ‘em, and will be laughing at all of the suckers that got sold out from our seats in the third row from the back in the upper balcony.

Just figured I should let you know that this post will be anything but unbiased.  Now, it should not come as a surprise to you that I believe that The Whole Love is yet another fantastic record by a fantastic band.  However, I understand why some fans have been a little disappointed after listening to the record’s stream.  The Whole Love will be the first record released on Wilco’s own label, and they did take a few “artsy” liberties that they might have stayed away from in the past.  Songs are a bit longer than usual, with a little static and fuzz finding its way in every now and then.

None of that should keep any fan of Wilco from finding something to like about this album.  The Whole Love acts as a  summation of everything that Wilco has ever done.  They go back to their countrier-than-recently roots, hit on some of the more abstract stuff from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and there’s plenty of the poppier stuff that they’ve leaned on over the past couple of records.


Day 105: Billy Bragg & Wilco – Mermaid Avenue

13 Jun

One by One

With this post, we’ll be bringing the glorious and wonderful Wilco Week to a close.  I know, it’s really sad.  Yes, I also know that it hasn’t been a full week.  In order to make this feature a full week, I’d have to listen to another Wilco release tomorrow, and I don’t feel like pushing Dad-Rock Tuesday to Wednesday, because then it’d be called “Dad-Rock Tuesday on Wednesday” (DRToW), which sounds stupid.  Six days is close enough to a week, and there’s no way that I will refer to this as Wilco Almost a Week.  This is Swole Ear, not an encyclopedia.  Accuracy (and understandable writing) are not that important.

Okay, so there’s no way around it—this album is a weird concept.  In the late nineties, Nora Guthrie got Billy Bragg (an English singer-songwriter) and Wilco (an alt country Chicago band) together, handed them a bunch of previously unheard Woodie Guthrie lyrics, and told them to go nuts.  Mermaid Avenue, Volumes I and II are the results of those strange occurances.  And, Volume I at least, sounds really good.

I found that Mermaid Avenue is much more enjoyable when you don’t think too hard about what you’re listening to.  Because, when you think about it, you realize that you’re hearing a guy who kind of sounds like Elvis Costello, along with Jeff Tweedy, singing depression-era songs about depression-era things, which is undeniably strange. Also, (don’t) keep in mind, Summerteeth-era Wilco (the band’s poppiest moment) arranged all of the music.

So don’t think too deeply, and you’ll be fine.  Guthrie was a great songwriter, and it’s not like these were his crappy B-Sides that he sent out to the fan club or anything.  It sure sounds like he just never got around to playing this stuff.  Wilco and Bragg make these songs their own, though.  Listen to One By One.  It wouldn’t be out of place on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as-is, Guthrie lyrics and all.   Sometimes weird stuff works.

Day 104: Wilco – Kicking Television: Live in Chicago

12 Jun


Live rock albums are tough to pull off.   Rock concerts are such unique experiences; recreating them in the album format is impossible.  Bands always try, though, probably because they know people will buy anything.  That’s not to say that live recordings can’t be enjoyable—they just can’t replace great rock shows.

Kicking Television was recorded over the course of four back-to-back Wilco shows at The Vic Theater in Chicago.  Having seen multiple shows at The Vic, I understand why Wilco would want to play there four days in a row.  It’s a great, historic Chicago venue, but more importantly, it’s fairly intimate—at least compared to the much larger venues that Wilco usually fills.

As far as live records go, Kicking Television isn’t anything special.  It does give me a reason to listen to some of my favorite Wilco tracks (Via Chicago from Summerteeth and Heavy Metal Drummer from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) that I haven’t gotten to listen to this Wilco Week, but, as expected, this record doesn’t come close to beating an actual concert for me.  And if that’s the case, there isn’t too much of a reason to listen to it, is there?  Might as well just listen to the higher quality recordings found on the studio albums.

And yet, that’s not how I actually feel.  I know, it’s illogical, but there’s just something about live recordings.  They’re fun to listen to every now and then.  They serve as a memento to what I’m sure was an awesome experience for the couple of thousand who actually witnessed these live shows, and while they don’t recreate the experience, it lets me hear how fun these concerts must have been.  It’s been too long since I’ve been to a show.

Day 103: Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

11 Jun


Swole Ear’s Wilco Week continues today with a review of 2007’s Sky Blue Sky.

Good news, for all of my (10, we’re up to 10 now) readers who were wondering—Jeff Tweedy made it back in time for the recording of his band’s fifth record!  I know.  I’m really relieved too.  I don’t think I could have dealt with another A Ghost Is Born.  Unfortunately for you, you’ll have to put up with reading one of my boring, positive reviews, as opposed to my everexciting, everbiting album trashers.  Oh well, you’ll manage.

It almost appears that Wilco is having some sort of identity crisis on this record.  For example, Sky Blue Sky is a particularly twangy track, reminiscent of the group’s early stuff, but it’s followed with Side With the Seeds, a particularly “indie” track, with no southern influence about it.  Wilco has always done that though—I did point out a similar occurrence on my review of their second record, Being There, earlier this week.  I guess Wilco’s bi-polar music stands out more on Sky because I’ve never really noticed a contrast quite like that before.

Wilco’s schizophrenia is what I love about them, though.  They can do so many different things really well; most of their stuff just doesn’t get boring.  Take Hate It Here, for instance.  It turns from a piano ballad to a standard rock, and even encompasses a bit of country along the way—all in just around four minutes.  There just aren’t many bands that can pull that off.

Day 102: Wilco – A Ghost Is Born

10 Jun


What?  Wait, what just happened?  Did I just listen to a Wilco album?  No…it couldn’t have been.  There’s no way.  I mean, they’re Wilco, they’re only capable of making great music, right?  Here’s my theory regarding the making of A Ghost is Born—Wilco, or possibly just Jeff Tweedy, was kidnapped or abducted by aliens for a few years after the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  The captors were just as awestruck by the beauty that is YHF, they just had to have the man/band behind it. During those two years, Nonesuch wanted to keep the Wilco money train going, so they got a guy who sounded like Tweedy, but was not capable of writing good lyrics, and also loved—I mean loved—guitar solos.  Tweedy was returned safe and sound eventually, as Wilco (The Album) is really freaking good too.  I don’t know if he made it back in time for Sky Blue Sky, but I’ll find out in a couple of days.

How farfetched is that?  Honestly, it can’t be too far off.  Before Tweedy disappeared, he had recorded a few songs already, and those made it onto GhostWishful Thinking and Hummingbird definitely have that old-school-awesome Wilco sound, but that’s about all the good that I can say regarding A Ghost is Born.  And this is the record that won the 2005 Grammy for Best Alternative Album, whatever that means.

Wilco is not the band that makes 15-minute drone tracks.  They just don’t pull crap like that.  Fake Wilco does though; just give Less Then You Think a listen.  What is going on here?

A Ghost Is Born proves one thing: it’s hard to come back with something good after a highly acclaimed piece.  Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is amazing, and maybe Wilco didn’t want to appear to be recreating that record with a different name.  They should have done that, though.  It would have been better than Ghost.

Day 101: Wilco – Being There

9 Jun

Outtasite (Outta Mind)

There we go, this is the Wilco that I know.  The “alt” definitely outweighs the “country” on Being There, the group’s second abum.  Today is Day 2 of Wilco Week, and I may  have found a new favorite Wilco record—well, technically, two new favorites.  Being There is a double album with nineteen songs in total, but only clocks in at an hour and seventeen minutes.

I’ve discovered something today.  There is no limit to my enjoyment of Wilco.  I listened to nineteen songs back-to-back, and never got sick of it.  It’s great hearing all of this material that’s new to me from a band that I love.

Tweedy and company pump up the tempo a bit on Being There, compared to A.M., at least.  While they don’t abandon their country roots, they definitely tone down the southern influence.  In fact, Misunderstood, as the name implies, sounds less like it was created by an alt-country band, than a negative indie-fuzz-rock band.

With this record, it appears that Wilco begins making the transformation into the band that would go on to make Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which is indisputably one of the greatest records ever made.  With darker phrases like “I guess all this history/is just a mystery/to me” on Hotel Arizona, it’s easy to see Tweedy beginning to drift towards the darker and more abstract lyrics that he would sing later in his career.

Being There really impressed me.  I may even like it better than the legendary YHF.  I’ll definitely have to give it a few more listens before I can make a decision of that much importance, but the fact that I’m even considering it to be at that level shows that it’s pretty freaking good too.

Day 100: Wilco – A.M.

8 Jun

Box Full of Letters

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should do when I reached my 100th day on Swole Ear.  Lots of ideas ran through my head, and I’ll admit, some were better than others.  Luckily for you (and me), I stayed away from a few of my ideas, like listening to Rick Astley’s Whenever You Need Somebody, or doing a 1,000 word review of Cheese Foot?’s (nonexistent) sophomore album.

Among the huge quantity of terrible ideas, a solid one finally emerged.  I decided to turn the coming of the 100th post into a weeklong celebration.  Hey, if there’s one thing that I’m good at, it’s stretching things out for way too long.

And with that, I give you the first post of Wilco Week.

Wilco has been around forever (to a 17-year-old).  I love everything that I’ve heard by them, but they have so much stuff that I’ve never gotten around to listening to.  For the next six days (Wilco Week will not interfere with the next DRT), I’ll be listening to and posting records that are either Wilco releases, or somehow Wilco-related.  The band has four studio albums that I haven’t heard, so this shouldn’t be too hard.

Wilco’s music is often described as “alt country,” a label that I’ve never really understood until now.  Everything that I’ve heard by them has leaned more towards the indie/alt spectrum than anything.  Country definitely can be heard on A.M., their 1995 debut, perhaps even outweighing the “alt.”  Guess what, it’s still Wilco; it’s still awesome.

Sure, they may rely on western guitar solos and country components more than I prefer, but even on this record, Jeff Tweedy delivers his lyrics with the same passion that I’ve come to know and love on his band’s later releases.  I’d say Wilco Week is off to a great start.