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Wilco - Ode To Joy (Album Review)

Tuesday, 15 October 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Wilco’s 11th album is a quiet collection of Midwestern alt-indie that, like their catalogue at large, guides the listener through complex, often introverted emotions. It’s a record that presents inventive, wistful arrangements alongside scratchy reverie and occasionally dense lyric writing. As with much of Wilco’s output, you may have to take a deep dive to get anything out of it.

High points include the likeable Love is Everywhere (Beware), a waltzing lo-fi epic that recalls the early output of Grandaddy. It has a splendidly nebulous guitar riff which emerges from Jeff Tweedy’s hushed mutterings.

Similarly, Quiet Amplifier has a cosmic effect, building slowly from a low slung guitar dirge into a kind of psychedelic meditation. The song recalls the Blur track, 1992, from their ‘13’ album, even if it can't quite deliver the same understated punch.  

Wilco are sometimes difficult to read; their songs often feel so laid back that it suggests they are coasting lackadaisically rather than honing a particular sound. White Wooden Cross is one track that falls the wrong side of this divide, and Before Us is another.

Despite clear thought and craft, the songs don’t really deliver an emotional impact, instead landing on modest gentility and a kind of spiritual innuendo—as though there is meaning there but the band will not surrender it.

This is not the case on We Were Lucky or Citizens, which feel like altogether more experimental, candid compositions. Citizens, in particular, marries tactile percussion with gorgeous bassy vocals and catchy melodies. The lyrics are also fine; seeming to comment on American society’s current schisms with careful analysis: “Pine box, Stop the clocks, Why can't both be true? / High times, High crimes, Medals for you to salute.”

While ‘Ode to Joy’ does not really move the dial, it is a decent addition to Wilco’s catalogue of skilful, introspective music. Beyond that, you can certainly make the case that the album fits into the broader canon of introverted American indie with ease, even if that ease might be the problem.

Too often, Wilco mask their meanings and evade musical dynamism—perhaps to keep things 'alternative'. The danger on 'Ode to Joy' is that this choice feels strangely middle-of-the-road.

Wilco Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue October 15 2019 - WASHINGTON District of Columbia - Anthem - DC (USA)
Wed October 16 2019 - CARY North Carolina - Booth Amphitheatre At Regency Park (USA)
Fri October 18 2019 - ATLANTA Georgia - Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park (USA)
Sat October 19 2019 - BIRMINGHAM AL Alabama - Alabama Theatre - Birmingham (USA)
Sun October 20 2019 - NASHVILLE Tennessee - Grand Ole Opry House (USA)
Tue October 22 2019 - TULSA Oklahoma - Cain's Ballroom (USA)
Wed October 23 2019 - IRVING Texas - Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory (USA)
Fri October 25 2019 - HOUSTON Texas - Revention Music Center (USA)
Sat October 26 2019 - AUSTIN Texas - Moody Theater - Austin TX (USA)
Sun October 27 2019 - AUSTIN Texas - Moody Theater - Austin TX (USA)
Mon November 04 2019 - GRAND RAPIDS Michigan - 20 Monroe Live (USA)
Tue November 05 2019 - ANN ARBOR Michigan - Hill Auditorium - Ann Arbor (USA)
Wed November 06 2019 - PITTSBURGH Pennsylvania - Heinz Hall (USA)
Fri November 08 2019 - CHARLOTTESVILLE Virginia - Sprint Pavilion (USA)
Sat November 09 2019 - CINCINNATI Ohio - Taft Theatre (USA)
Sun November 10 2019 - COLUMBUS Ohio - Palace Theatre Columbus (USA)
Tue November 12 2019 - INDIANAPOLIS Indiana - Murat Theatre at Old National Centre (USA)
Wed November 13 2019 - LOUISVILLE Kentucky - Louisville Palace (USA)
Thu November 14 2019 - ST LOUIS Missouri - Fabulous Fox Theatre - St. Louis (USA)
Fri November 15 2019 - CEDAR RAPIDS Iowa - Paramount Theatre - Cedar Rapids (USA)
Sun November 17 2019 - KANSAS CITY Missouri - Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland (USA)
Tue November 19 2019 - DENVER Colorado - Mission Ballroom (USA)
Wed November 20 2019 - OMAHA Nebraska - Orpheum Theatre - Omaha (USA)
Fri November 22 2019 - SAINT PAUL Minnesota - Palace Theatre - St. Paul (USA)
Sat November 23 2019 - SAINT PAUL Minnesota - Palace Theatre - St. Paul (USA)
Sun November 24 2019 - SAINT PAUL Minnesota - Palace Theatre - St. Paul (USA)
Sun December 15 2019 - CHICAGO Illinois - Chicago Theatre (USA)
Mon December 16 2019 - CHICAGO Illinois - Chicago Theatre (USA)
Wed December 18 2019 - CHICAGO Illinois - Chicago Theatre (USA)
Thu December 19 2019 - CHICAGO Illinois - Chicago Theatre (USA)

Click here to compare & buy Wilco Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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Tue 16 Jul 2019
Wilco Announce 'Ode To Joy' LP And Share New Song Love Is Everywhere (Beware)
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