When a new Wilco album comes out, it’s impossible to know exactly which direction Tweedy and company will go. The band could stick to its Americana and alt-country roots that made up early albums like Summerteeth, or they could draw on its later ambient, shoe-gazing influences to release an album that consists mostly of noise — and both could be equally brilliant.
Wilco’s eighth album, The Whole Love, provides fans with a little bit of everything from their past and manages to sneak in a few moments of brilliance, but lacks the innovative spark that made Wilco one of the top American bands of the day.
Dive Verdict: 3.5 of 5 stars
“Art of Almost” kicks off the album with an intro that could’ve been taken from Radiohead’s Kid A sessions, but after the second verse there’s a Zeppelin breakdown with Nels Cline building the song back up with a lengthy, fuzzed-out solo.
Even though “Art of Almost” starts the album with a heavy, eerie air, there are plenty of feel-good tunes on The Whole Love. With its circus organ and doo-wop vocal harmonies, “I Might” flirts with being cheesy, while the hand claps in “Standing O” would be unacceptable without Cline’s rocking guitar solo midway through the song.
“Capitol City” is an old-timey toe-tapper that feels like a 1920s fair, with the airy instrumentals and the closing church bells taking you to the top of the Ferris wheel on a cool Sunday afternoon.
Acoustic ballads balance the album, especially with the fourth track, “Black Moon.” One thing that The Whole Love is missing is the ambient segues that are a staple of their live shows and which made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot feel like such a complete album despite the contrasting song styles.
Every song on The Whole Love fades to silence at the end, which doesn’t detract from the quality of the songs, but it does make the album feel less cohesive and sharpens the contrast between the different song styles.
The Whole Love doesn’t contain too many surprises, but every song on this album is solid and it covers a lot of ground musically. There are catchy pop tunes, great rock songs and beautiful ballads, but it’s missing the innovation that made so many people love Wilco in the first place.
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