2019, Music

Ode to Joy (2019) by Wilco

Weirdly, I bought this and then completely forgot about it. It was only when I was listening to Cruel Country that I realized I had skipped an album. And then I discovered I had indeed purchased a digital copy and just flat out forgot to listen to it.

This one was recorded rather weirdly, it seems: Tweedy wrote some songs (as he does) and then he and Kotche recorded them. And then the rest of the band added stuff. (So Cruel Country is a rather big departure from this method, it turns out.) As you might expect, drums and percussion are rather prominent as a result, among the most prominent on any Wilco record.

But the weird recording method and the prominence of the drums does not actually make the album sound that much different from (my memory of) Schmilco. Someone else described all these recent records as “hushed” and I’m inclined to agree. As he ages, Tweedy has embraced a particular style of singing that he didn’t use all that much when he was younger. Maybe that’s necessary, but it does mean that there is a sameness to his vocals across a lot of these albums and, given the prominence of those vocals in the mix, it tends to make every song sound too similar, even when they aren’t that similar.

There are plenty of interesting things going on in the mix, but those things are usually mixed quite far back. And, as they’ve aged, Wilco have gotten more subtle, for the most part. That’s probably a virtue but it’s not something that appeals to me. Star Wars is far and away my favourite Wilco album of the teens (and even further) because it’s the only one that wears its weirdness on its sleeve. That’s not usually their thing any more.

Some of these songs are mong Tweedy’s better songs, but not enough of them, I think. Certainly not enough to overcome the overall subdued tone of the record.

I remain optimistic that, if I ever get around to listening to it again, I will come to like this more. But I feel like I say that about every recent Wilco record and none of them ever pull me back like the olden days records.


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