Wilco's latest album (and first on their new self-owned dBpm label) has a little bit of everything they've done in the past that have defined them as one of the most innovative American bands; from the sugar-coated poppiness of Summerteeth to the more experimental nature of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The Whole Love is the band's best since A Ghost Is Born, and is much much better than Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (The Album) combined, both of which were equally excellent by the way. This is also the same lineup for the third album straight (with bassist John Stirratt and Jeff Tweedy the only original members), and I do hope it stays that way.
The terribly epic opener, Art Of Almost, harks back to that of I'm Trying To Break Your Heart, starts out a bit Radiohead-like with the electronic textured drums, but then halfway through, it takes an unexpected turn, as the distorted awesomeness that is guitarist Nels Cline comes in and blows your mind. Studio wizardry is back! And then I Might harks back into pop territory with a touch of garage rock, which Wilco is also very good at achieving. There's actually a sample of The Stooges' TV Eye in it. And then not to mention a song like Standing O, which has some obvious Pete Townshend influences.
Perhaps the most catchy tune is Born Alone (which I think has some very unique lyrics), in which Cline's little spine-chilling guitar lick in between the choruses has stuck in my head for a very long time. The outro plays out like an endless musical trick, known as the Shepard Tone, ascending and descending chords but never really moving in pitch. Tweedy channels his inner '60s influences and churns them out in songs like Sunloathe (very Abbey Road), Dawned On Me and the second last title track. He also takes out a page from Randy Newman's songbook in the delightful, jazzy Capitol City. As a fan of Sky Blue Sky and A.M., I love the return to country flavor in tunes like Black Moon (lovely strings), Open Mind and Rising Red Lung.
Many will agree the album's highlight is the closing elegy, One Sunday Morning. It happens to be the best Wilco closer ever. It's 12mins long and boasts a simple and soothing acoustic melody, beautifully textured. Interestingly enough it makes me wanna hit replay after the song is over. It's just that addictive. Again Tweedy proves here why he's the best lyricist of his generation, as he describes a heartbreaking father-and-son relationship, and he sings it as if he's on the verge of death. Sound quality wise, you can't go wrong with Bob Ludwig mastering. The Whole Love is easily the best album of the year for me so far.
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P.S. The deluxe edition includes an additional disc of 4 songs, including the Nick Lowe cover, I Love My Label.