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Wilco - The Whole Love

Wilco, The Whole Love

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WILCO’S eighth studio album The Whole Love has been described as ‘a sonic stew’ that offers a near-perfect showcase for the band’s far-reaching musical prowess (multiple guitars, keyboards, synthesizers and percussion plus Mellotron, strings, loops and more) and Jeff Tweedy’s provocative and insightful lyrics.

It’s not far wide of the mark in terms of what to expect. A more complete and yet wholly ambitious undertaking than 2009’s Grammy-nominated Wilco (The Album), it is equally at home delivering blistering electric guitar tracks with the emphasis on feel-good as it is slow-burning acoustic numbers that pause to make you think.

Lyrically, it’s as intelligent and thoughtful as we’ve come to expect, while instrumentally it’s typically layered… sometimes to wonderful excess.

Final track, One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend), for instance, clocks in at over 12 minutes yet somehow manages to stay fresh and even beautiful, thanks to its laidback acoustica.

But by then, Wilco have earned their place in your musical affections, such is the generally warm but boldly adventurous nature of what has come before.

Album opener Art of Almost, for instance, opens amid programmed beats and a dark, hypnotic vibe before drawing on sweeping strings and strangely haunted vocals and lyrics. It’s far from the indie-rock sound they’re more synonymous with, yet as close as they’ll probably ever come to Radiohead comparisons.

It’s a bold starting point that suggests a complete change of style; but it’s followed by an album highlight in the fuzz rock of lead single I Might, which is one of the catchiest tracks on the LP.

And then Sunloathe strips things right back down to offer an almost hallucogenic slice of psychedelic acoustica that shows them at their most sparse and leftfield.

Throughout the album, though, they mix things up to keep the listener on their toes.

Dawned on Me picks up the rock vibe to easygoing effect, Black Moon slides effortlessly back into acoustic territory and evokes comparisons with classic Americana artists, Born Alone sounds as though it belongs on a classic Tom Petty album and Capitol City has a playfulness about it that’s completely charming and vaguely futuristic.

The final three tracks, meanwhile, draw the album to a supremely satisfying finale that’s capped off with that 12 minute epic that’s tailor-made for sitting back and fully taking the time to appreciate.

Ambitious, easygoing and consistently great, The Whole Love exhibits an ear for classic songwriting qualities delivered in a style that’s unquestionably Wilco’s own. You should be quickly smitten too.

Download picks: I Might, Art of Almost, One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend), Dawned on Me, Born Alone, Rising Red Lung, Whole Love

Watch the Born Alone video:

Track listing:

  1. Art of Almost
  2. I Might
  3. Sunloathe
  4. Dawned on Me
  5. Black Moon
  6. Born Alone
  7. Open Mind
  8. Capitol City
  9. Standing O
  10. Rising Red Lung
  11. Whole Love
  12. One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)