Wilco | Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch)

cd_wilcoThe perfect plea, "Leave Me Like You Found Me" hearkens back to the simplest sound of Wilco, a track that could seamlessly slide onto 1999's Summerteeth.

 

 

 

 

If Jeff Tweedy's enthusiasm can sell a record, then you'll be snagging up copies of Wilco's latest disc, Sky Blue Sky, for yourself and every friend you respect enough to share it with. Tweedy recently told Pitchfork, "There's a really kick-ass band that I get to be a part of, and I'm really happy about that." Finally, the man's happy.

Sky Blue Sky is the first studio album for this Wilco, a group that has received critical acclaim for three years of live shows resulting in the 2005 double-live disc Kicking Television. Sky Blue Sky features guitarist/vocalist and songwriter Jeff Tweedy; long-time bassist John Stirratt; flawless Glenn Kotche on drums; keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen; guitar god Nels Cline; and the endlessly talented Pat Sansone.

Wilco has always delivered a sound that is both working-class and other worldly. Purposeful ambiguity empowers Sky Blue Sky album through rocking guitar solos, thoughtful, unpredictable compositions and full-bodied lyrics. At first listen, it seems that this album is less experimental than the beloved Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but listen closer and you will hear a band that is very comfortable making music together. If anyone has ever truly collaborated with Jeff Tweedy, it happened on this album. With a shifting lineup that bugs some Wilco fans and critics, it has to be said that this album represents a genuine collaboration between six musicians.

In complete emotional contrast to 2004's A Ghost is Born, Sky Blue Sky is a coherent commentary on relationships and the everyday functions of life – good or bad. This is a more patient Jeff Tweedy and this is a rock album for patient people. Sky Blue Sky is stripped down, lyrically and instrumentally. But it is still a rock album. Cline's powerful guitar melds with Stirratt and Kotche's rhythm to add depth to tracks like the rollicking "Walken" and the bluesy and sentimental "Side With the Seeds."

I have worn out my iPod listening and re-listening to the fluid Abbey Road-esque, "Hate It Here." I get goosebumps each time Tweedy laments, "I hate it here, when you're gone." In the standout track "You Are My Face," Tweedy's voice aches with lack of control as Cline's blaring guitar carries the vocals to a climax, "I have no idea how this happens. All of my maps have been overthrown." The perfect plea, "Leave Me Like You Found Me" hearkens back to the simplest sound of Wilco, a track that could seamlessly slide onto 1999's Summerteeth. And while some fans are criticical of hopeful songs like "What Light" and "On and On and On" for their simple lyrics, the composition of these songs best represent a new direction for a hard to categorize band. These are songs that marry rock and roll sensibilities with a sound that can't be caged.

Like a good bottle of scotch, Sky Blue Sky is an album to savor. A | Raymee Holshouser

RIYL: REM, Josh Rouse, Son Volt

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